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Minnesota Native News

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Minnesota Native News is a weekly radio segment covering ideas and events relevant to Minnesota’s Native American communities. Made possible by the Minnesota Art's and Cultural Heritage fund


Minneapolis Pow Wow Celebrates Two Spirit Indigenous Identity

The Twin Cities Pride Festival celebrated its 50th anniversary last weekend. Just a few miles away, local organizers held a different type of pride celebration. Feven Gerezgiher reports.

Around two hundred people gathered on June 24th for the inaugural Two Spirit Pow Wow in South Minneapolis.

This is head dancer Nina Berglund, a descendant of the Oglala Lakota and Northern Cheyenne nations.

"I hope for all the young people, to see them all dancing and to really be included, to understand that you have a place, you have a place in the circle, you have a place in our communities, and you have a place in our ceremonies," said Nina, addressing the community.

New Native Theatre partnered with the Minnesota Two Spirit Society to put together an evening centered on “reclaiming identities.”

Em Matson - from the Sault Ste. Marie Ojibwe of the upper peninsula of Michigan - was one of the pow wow coordinators.

"The label Two Spirit has come about because people have felt the need to walk between two worlds or choose between two worlds: either be LGBT or be Indigenous, and the Two Spirit label and Two Spirit spaces bring people to be able to be both. And to be able to have their gender identity, which is often tied to their cultural identity, celebrated. Because a lot of times in mainstream LGBTQ spaces, people just don't understand an Indigenous gender identity. They don't understand the cultural roles that come with it or the responsibilities." said Em.

Em said Two Spirit pow wows have become more prevalent in the past ten years.

"A lot of times not everyone feels safe or properly gendered at traditional powwows. There's a lot of gendered categories there. And sometimes in spaces, people encounter transphobia and homophobia that was kind of imprinted on us because of colonization, and so this pow wow is sort of a re-assertion that this - It's a reclaiming of our genders that existed before colonization. It's creating safe community spaces for us to celebrate being together and be able to you know, go out there and dance and be in ceremony with one another," said Em.

The Minnesota Two Spirit Society aims to support Two Spirit community with issues they often face - things like homelessness or even missing cultural clothing.

"So one problem a lot of Two Spirit people face is they don't have regalia a lot of times because regalia is often passed down in families or made by family members, and those who have been disconnected from their families due to homophobia and transphobia just don't have access to the same regalia. So we had ribbon skirt making ribbon shirt making. We're hoping to do more things like shawl making, just to get people clothing where they can feel like they can enter the ceremony circle," said Em.

Many participants had never been to an event specifically for Two Spirit people.

"My name is Connor Big Eagle. I'm 13 years old and I'm Dakota Lakota Sioux."

Connor said he wanted more events like the pow wow because it was great to meet other Two Spirit people.

"It feels great and I really I think that they picked a perfect day because the weather's amazing…I really enjoyed the drum songs and the ice cream truck," said Connor.

Alex Golden-Wolf from the White Earth Nation was both shocked and honored to see queerness celebrated.

"I think it's very important because, like, it seems like not a lot of pow wows that I've been to have honored the Two Spirit indigeneity. And so like, it's probably like, for me, it's the first that is there's been and I wish that in the future that there's gonna be more to come like this specifically for Two Spirits and like non-binary people alike, and I wish like, I want there to be more people here to experience the love and joy that comes around, like being in pow wows and stuff," said Alex.

With the event running smoothly, organizers said they plan to make the pow wow an annual event.

For Minnesota Native News, I’m Feven Gerezgiher.

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