Lecture Series

“Reclaiming Two-Spirits: How Native Americans Revitalized an Almost Lost Tradition”

Presented by: Dr. Gregory Smithers, Virginia Commonwealth University

Join the Frontier Culture Museum on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 for the next installment of our 2023 Lecture Series. This month’s lecture is “Reclaiming Two-Spirits: How Native Americans Revitalized an Almost Lost Tradition,” presented by Dr. Gregory Smithers from Virginia Commonwealth University.

In the summer of 1990, a small group of Native Americans gathered at a campground just outside of Winnipeg, Canada. Few of the attendees could have imagined the history they’d create. In fact, the legacy of that gathering continues to reverberate across Indian Country – and North America – today. In the summer of 1990, delegates at the Third Annual Gathering of Gay and Lesbian Indians went back in time, to their living traditions, to set a path for their collective futures. They went back beyond Columbus and 1492 and to a time when hundreds of Indigenous communities across North America included people who identified as neither male nor female, but both. Those ancestors went by aakíí’skassi, miati, okitcitakwe or one of hundreds of other tribally specific identities. At Winnipeg, a new term emerged: Two-Spirits, an umbrella term denoting feminine and masculine qualities in one person. But what does Two-Spirit mean? Where does it come from? And who were the people who coined a term that has reshaped almost two generations of Native American history?



American Frontier Culture FoundationVirginia HumanitiesLee Enterprises