Wabanaki 2-Spirit Community Reclaims its Past
Posted by Wayves Volunteer 19/06/2013
By Gabe Saulnier
Historically, Aboriginal/First Nation People of the Wabanaki had a very open and wide acceptance of sexual practices and and orientation. Sexuality and sex was seen as a completely normal expression of a person's spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental being. Men could be partnered with other women or men and this was natural, this was beautiful. Women could be partnered with men or other women, there were no “rules for sexuality,” only life as it unfolded, naturally without interference.
Each community has a different languages, words and interpretations to describe sexuality and sexual preferences. In some of the communities views of open sexuality were simply seen as a part of life, and accepted as normal. Others saw this spiritual gift as having the ability to be able to fulfill both the roles of being female or male, some women when on hunts with the men and some men stayed and nurtured children, cooked or gathered.
The term Two-Spirit is relatively new to our communities and People. Prior to the late 1980's there were no proper definitions or names for 2 Spirited people, we all fell into one heap with the rest of the GLBTQQ people. The term 2 Spirit was coined at a gathering held in Manitoba in the early 1990's, after a group of gay and lesbian Aboriginal/First Nation peoples had an international meeting of what is now known as 2 Spirited Peoples. This gathering has been held yearly in both the United States and Canada bringing together many 2 Spirited persons together to celebrate their natural sexuality. The Wabanaki 2-Spirit Alliance will be hosting the international 2 Spirit Gathering in 2014.
The Wabanaki 2-Spirt Alliance is a group of 2 Spirited people who live in what is known as Atlantic Canada. The first gathering of this group was held in Rexton New Brunswick in 1995 and it took 17 years to hold the second gathering. This gathering was held at a Spiritually significant Mi'kmaq place, Liscombe Lodge in Liscombe Mills NS. A smaller 2nd gathering was held in Dartmouth a year later.
When the Europeans settled and began to colonize Turtle Island (North America) centuries ago they arrived with a completely different set of morals, values, traditions and beliefs than that of the Aboriginal/First Nation Peoples. What the Peoples of this land thought of as spiritual organized religion was viewed as pagan and therefore, abolished. Many were exiled by their tribes or communities because it was forced on them that this behaviour was bad and the person would burn for eternity in hell. Unfortunately, this view has been imbedded into many Aboriginal people's lives, including today's generation. Over the past several years, the 2 Spirited Peoples of Mi'kmaq (Atlantic Region) have begun to reclaim what has been lost to the past, by interviewing Elders, doing research and reintroducing Sacred Ceremonies. These events are well attended and many youth and Elders share ideas, stories and experiences.
Today's 2 Spirit people are oftentimes victims of homophobia, violence, exclusion, depression and even death. Homophobia is alive within our own community but thanks to many who have come forward and explained that we are all normal people, yes, normal, and that we can't give them “gay” slowly the doors are beginning to open, some not as wide as others, but some light is getting in. The root of this problem is lack of guidance and teaching with regards to our own sexuality. With the appropriate help, Two-Spirit people will begin to understand their own sexual orientation thus building up their confidence to become leaders, teachers and parents for our community.
Welalin, all my relations.
Editor's Note: Photo shows Gabe Saulnier, Community Health Educator with Healing Our Nations, addressing the crowd at the 2013 May 17: IDAHoT Rally in Halifax. Photo by Wayves Photographer, Anita Martinez.