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  The Way Of The Two Spirited People
















The two-spirited person is a native tradition the existence of cross-gender roles, the male-female, the female-male, what we now call the two-spirited person.

Our Elders tell us of people who were gifted among all beings because
they carried two spirits, that of male and female. It is told that women
engaged in tribal warfare and married other women, as there were men who married other men.

These individuals were looked upon as a third and
fourth gender in many cases and in almost all cultures they were
honored and revered. Two-spirit people were often the visionaries, the
healers, the medicine people, the nannies of orphans, the care givers.


 This is the heart of Two-Spirited People of the the past of two-spirit people, the term two-spirit refers to the concepts of gender variant people in Native America traditions.

Most tribes were aware of the existence of two-spirit people, and many
still have a name in their traditional language for them.

For example, Ojibwa: Anishinaabemowin or  niizh manidoowag

ikwekaazo, "Men who chose to function as women...One who endeavors to be like a woman."

 ininiikaazo, "Women who functioned as who endeavors to be like a man.

Cree:  napêw iskwêwisêhot (nu-PAYO ihs-gwayo-WIH-say-hoht), a man who dresses as a woman

iskwêw ka napêwayat (ihs-GWAYO ga nu-PAYO-wuh-yut), a woman dressed as a man 

ayahkwêw (U-yuh-gwayo), a man dressed/living/accepted as a woman.

înahpîkasoht (ee-nuh-PEE-gu-soot), a woman dressed/living/accepted as a man.

Some tribes had different names for two-spirited men and women.
Other tribes, though, did not have such a concept.

Many tribes had rituals for children to go through if they were recognized as acting different from their birth gender. These rituals ensured the child was truly two-spirit. (If parents noticed that a son was disinterested in boyish play or manly work or daughter disinterested in sewing, or womanly work), they would set up a ceremony to determine which way the boy or girl would be brought up. They would make an enclosure of brush, and place in the center both a man's bow and a woman's basket. The boy or girl was told to go inside the circle of brush and to bring something out, and as s/he entered the brush would be set on fire. The tribe watched what s/he took with him/her as /he ran out, and if it was the basketry materials they reconciled themselves to his being a Woman if the girl took the bow reconciled themselves to her being a Man.

In another ritual, usually carried out when the child is between the ages of nine and twelve, that helped identify a child's two-spirit nature, a singing circle would be prepared, unbeknownst to the child, involving the whole community as well as distant friends and relatives.
On the day of the ceremony everyone gathered around and the boy/girl was led into the middle of the circle. The singer, hidden in the crowd, began to sing the ritual songs and the boy, if he was destined to follow the two-spirit road, starts to dance in the
fashion of a woman. The girl in the fashion of a man.    After the fourth song the boy/girl was declared a two-spirit person and was raised from then on in the appropriate manner.

These rituals determined if the person was two-spirited. 

Children of both genders would also spend time with healers, often two-spirit people themselves. Above all, their childhood was marked by acceptance and understanding by the whole tribe.
Multi-gendered adult people were usually presumed to be people of power.
Because they have both maleness and femaleness totally entwined in one body, they were known to be able to 'see' with the eyes of both biological men and biological women. They were often called upon to be healers, mediators, interpreters of dreams, or expected to become singers or others whose lives were devoted to the welfare of the group.
If they did extraordinary things in any aspect of life, it was assumed that they had the license and power to do so, and therefore, they were not questioned.

In everyday life the two-spirit male typically would wear women's clothes and do women's work. He might take a husband from among the men of the tribe depending on the role
of the gender the two-spirit man in his tribe.  Female two spirits engaged in activities such as hunting and warfare, and became leaders in war and even chiefs. Two-spirit individuals were
expected to behave within the two-spirit gender norms of his or her tribe. 

Two spirits typically formed sexual and emotional relationships with non-two-spirit members of their own sex.

All of these rules, however, were culture specific and even within any given Native culture, there was often room for various expressions of gender variance. Throughout history we see  change, transformation, and fluidity of roles for those who felt called to that path  they were welcome and appreciated.

Besides their spiritual abilities, their capacity for work also figured into the high status of two-spirit people. Even though a two-spirit male would have taken on the gender identity of a woman, he would still have the endurance and strength of a man. Thus his productivity was greater than that of most women, and for that reason he would have been valued as a marriage partner.

Two-spirit  female would have taken on the gender identity of a man, however Have the agility and patience of a woman, making her greater as a hunter of fowl, fish, clime trees for the best fruit an honey.

and for that reason she would have been valued as a marriage partner.

Other characteristics that Natives associate with two-spirit people which help explain their desirability as partners were their highly developed ability to relate to and teach children, a
generous nature, and exceptional intellectual and artistic skills.

  Two-spirit male would have taken on the gender identity of a woman, Picture 1

 Two-spirit  female would have taken on the gender identity of a man,  Picture 2

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