Historical photo of Osh-Tisch and Magpie.
By JOSEPH WADSWORTH
FORT HALL — The Victims Assistance Program hosted the first LGBTQ Two-Spirit Awareness Day at the Shoshone-Bannock Casino/Hotel & Event center Thursday, June 20, in Fort Hall.
Tribal member Clyde Hall and Randy Burns who is Paiute from Nevada, did a PowerPoint presentation on Cultural History. Burns spoke about his community activism when he and Barbara Cameron Lakota Sioux created the first ever of it’s kind the Gay American Indians (GAI) group back in July of 1975.
The purpose of the group was to provide a safe place for Gay Indians to gather, socialize, and share.
Clyde Hall was also a founding member of GAI and spoke about the word Two-Spirit and its use as a contemporary umbrella term for all indigenous people to describe their sexual, gender and or spiritual identity. It refers to Native LGBTQ+ persons who are both masculine and feminine.
From then to now alternative roles for Two-Spirit people were widely shared features of North America and have been documented in over 150 tribes historically, with the growth of the Two-Spirit movement. It is now recognized in over 200 native tribes, with 35 active Two-Spirit societies within the United States and Canada.
Some traditional names that was used before the term Two-Spirit was used were Ná dleeh - Navajo meaning “he/she changes”, Hé eman – Cheyenne meaning “women/man”, Badé or Bote – Crow. A few traditional roles back then were name giving, love potions/match maker, Sun dance, holy people told the future and brought good luck, both boy’s and girl’s puberty ceremony, peace makers for the tribe also joined war parties, medicine people, master craftsmen.
Both Hall and Burns talked about a few famous Two-Spirited people from history, first was Osh-Tisch a Badé. A Crow who lived daily life in a feminine role. Osh-Tisch earned the name “Finds Them And Kills Them” from a fight against the Lakota; Osh-Tisch was a revered member of the tribe.
They also talked about We’wha an Lhamana from the Zuni tribe in New Mexico; We’wha was born a male-bodied person who wore a mix of women and men’s clothing. She performed tasks that were typically divided by gender roles, distinguished as a weaver and a potter as well as a hunter and spiritual leader. We’wha spoke English and struck up friendships with white outsiders, including the anthropologist Matilda Coxe Stevenson. We’wha even traveled to Washington, D.C. in 1886 and met President Grover Cleveland.
Lozen and Dahtetse were a part of Geronimo’s band the U.S. Army attempted to capture Goyaałé known as Geronimo for 30 years. Among his band of warriors Lozen was the sister of Geronimo’s right-hand man, Victorio. She was among the fiercest warriors, a medicine woman gifted with powerful visions. Her strength in military strategy became apparent from an early age. After her brother was killed in battle, a distraught Lozen exacted her revenge on the U.S. Army in true warrior fashion: returning to the warpath quickly, purposefully and with deadly results. At least four other Apache women aided Lozen’s campaign against the U.S. Army, but none like Dahteste. Dahtetse was a scout, messenger and mediator. She was married and fought alongside her husband, but her “battle buddy,” Lozen, was always nearby.
Resources include oral history, The Spirit and the Flesh — Walter L. Williams, The Zuni Man/Women — Will Roscoe, Pride and Prejudice Gay Indian Storyteller — Randy Burns, Okmulgee-Sapulpa Two-Spirit Society — John Co-cké.
Hall said that he was delighted at the event and the panels plus he was happy to see the community support. Burns when asked by Clyde Hall it was a no brainer he was going to say yes, Burns was very honored he said, he was happy to share his life story about GAI. “We are all storytellers,” Burns said. What was said verbally is only a small part about what Burns and Hall’s knowledge, Burns went on to say that there could be chapters and chapters he could talk about history.
Ccomments from the audience: Valuable history for all native people living on the rez, urban cities across this land. About past and present regarding LGBTQ, another wrote this was very informational need more presentations like this. Loved this presentation the most, loved the history they have done amazing work and was honored to hear some of their stories.