At a town hall, Musqueam Elder Thelma Stogan and their relative Felicia opened the meeting with a paddle song. Opening this way, Elder Thelma evoked that to move forward in a good way we all must paddle together, we all have different roles in our journey, and that progress only happens when everyone in the canoe commits to moving forward as one.
Relationships, expressed as our paddle-bearers in the canoe, are central to the work of the Two-Spirit Dry Lab (2SDL). Whether the 2SDL is connecting with other Two-Spirit organizations, government agencies, universities, non-profits or Indigenous communities, strong relationships are at the foundation for moving the work forward in a good way.
The 2SDL tries to lift up and bring honor to these Musqueam teachings as the 2SDL is currently housed in institutions that are located on the unceded homelands and territories of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), Sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh), and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations.
From October 10 to 24, 2022, the 2SDL traveled to lands of the Ramaytush Ohlone Peoples or what is now referred to as San Francisco, CA to present at the 40th Gay Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA) Annual Conference on LGBTQ Health. There we co-facilitated a talking circle on how GLMA and the Two-Spirit community can work to be in better relations with one another. Members of the 2SDL pictured here departed from GLMA and traveled to Arcata, CA to start a new relationship with the Wiyot, Yurok, Karuk, and Hoopa Peoples. That work explored our shared and common goal of envisioning and working for better tomorrows for our Two-Spirit, Indigiqueer and/or LGBTBQI+ Indigenous relatives.
2SDL & GLMA
In October 2022, 2SDL members Teddy Consolacion, Ryan Stillwagon and Harlan Pruden were invited to GLMA to presented “Two-Spirit in Health Research: Collecting, Working with & Handling Data in Culturally Affirming Way(s),” a presentation that emphasized ways to better collect data that reflects lived experiences of Two-Spirit peoples and communities. The 2SDL also used this opportunity to re-establish and to broaden our relationship with GLMA as this was their first in-person conference since 2019.
In many ways, the 2SDL beginnings are intertwined and interconnected with GLMA. In 2017 Harlan Pruden was invited to give a keynote presentation. He talked about being in better relations with Two-Spirit peoples and communities and how setter-allies can acknowledge, honor and lift up Two-Spirit peoples and ways. Doing so would mitigate the impacts of both past and present forms of colonization. After that keynote, Harlan and Travis Salway met and began a conversation. This conversation led to the founding of a health research group solely focusing on Two-Spirit peoples, communities and experiences. GLMA in many ways is the genesis of the 2SDL.
We returned to GLMA in 2022 to continue this important work. Harlan Pruden (First Nations Cree) and respected Two-Spirit Elder Holy Old Man Bull, also known as Marcus Arana (Blackfeet and Ohlone), who gave a keynote at the 2022 GLMA conference, co-facilitated a talking circle with GLMA leadership, 2SDL team members, and the Two-Spirit, Indigiqueer and/or LGBTBQI+ Indigenous attendees on how GLMA can work to be in better relations with Two-Spirit and Indigenous communities across Turtle Island.
The following points were gathered from this talking circle:
- GLAM’s call for abstracts must include the term “Two-Spirit” and a question of how each presentations includes or does not include information on Indigenous and/or Two-Spirit health
- GLMA will add a question in their evaluation of the presenters on the integration and inclusion of Indigenous and/or Two-Spirit in presentations
- GLMA will dedicate Two-Spirit conference presentation times in the conference schedule
- GLMA will use its membership at American Medical Association for the advancement of a Two-Spirit resolution (to be developed in consultation with Indigenous and/or Two-Spirit leaders and/or community members)
- GLMA will develop a program for medical personals to do outreach for recruitment purposes at Indigenous high school and undergrad students in an effort for Two-Spirit, Indigiqueer and/or LGBTBQI+ Indigenous students to see that being a medical profession as a viable career path
- Scholarships and/or travel awards for Indigenous and/or Two-Spirit to attend future GLMA conferences and meetings will be provided
- Collection of Two-Spirit and Indigenous demographic data of conferees. This data will inform the work GLMA will do to increase their participation
- GLMA will host Indigenous and/or Two-Spirit webinars between conferences to support and increase Indigenous and/or Two-Spirit participation at GLMA as well as to increase the knowledge of these members among other GLMA conferees. These presentations and presenters will be invited and encouraged to submit abstracts for the upcoming GLMA Annual meeting & Expo
- GLMA will attend Indigenous health conferences to build relationships with them, and will learn about current health issues important to Indigenous and Two-Spirit communities
After this meeting, GLMA leadership provided updates on steps they are taking to advance or act upon the above community requests. For example, on the webpage for this year’s conference call for abstracts, it includes the Two-Spirit within their call. Further, those submitting abstracts must answer the following question: “Does your presentation include information on Indigenous and/or Two-Spirit health?” with the following options:
- Yes, Indigenous and/or Two-Spirit health is the primary focus of the presentation
- Yes, the presentation includes information on Indigenous and/or Two-Spirit health
- No, but I would like to receive resources to include this information in the future
- No, unfortunately Indigenous and/or Two-Spirit health did not fit into the scope of the presentation
The above question is followed with: “Please explain in a few sentences how your abstract addresses intersectionality. (150 word maximum).” As GLMA works to be in better relationships, the 2SDL will provide updates to this post.
2SDL Two-Spirit in Northern California
After the GLMA presentation and talking circle, the 2SDL team members traveled to Arcata, California to start a new relationship with the Wiyot, Yurok, Karuk, and Hoopa peoples.
The 2SDL received an invitation to work with the Hoopa Nation from a queer organization in Arcata, Queer Humboldt, run by Lark Doolan. This northern California trip began with a Friday night Two-Spirit talk on the distinguished, historic roles Two-Spirit people held in many Indigenous communities across Turtle Island. The room was packed with people from around the community, including many queer, questioning, and ally Hoopa high school students. Those traveling from the Hoopa reserve made a 1.5 hour trip to see this talk.
From the comments shared from the audience, this talk was the first time they had heard of the term “Two-Spirit.” Many expressed excitement about their Nation possessing unique and distinct words that signal both their Indigeneity and queerness, as not mutually exclusive things but words that reinforced their heritage and belonging within their Nation. The talk became a place of possibility, where Indigenous youth could imagine ways of defining themselves within their communities, a possibility that histories of colonialism had erased. The audience buzzed with excitement as the talk went on, with attendees excited and inspired by the message Harlan Pruden was delivering. We all left feeling we had contributed to something larger than ourselves.
The following day–at the invitation of the Hoopa members associated with its highschool and through the coordinated efforts of Lark Doolan – the 2SDL team drove from Arcata to the Hoopa Valley reservation.
The 2SDL went to their high school to meet school administrators, teachers, students, and community members to present an analysis of data school administrators, in partnership with a local 2S/LGBTQIA+ community group, collected among 148 students, of which 115 (78%) were Indigenous. The event started with a shared meal and followed by a screening of the Two-Spirit movie, Fire Song. This was followed by a discussion on the movie, and Teddy and Ryan presented on data from a survey conducted at the Hoopa highschool. Teddy and Ryan highlighted the strengths of what the school was doing, where all queer Indigenous students said they felt like they had at least 1 trusted adult they could turn to for support. Gaps in safety were also noted by the queer Indigenous youth, particularly in hallways and in bathrooms, and they alarmingly told us that they had heard paid-staff say harmful things about queerness within earshot of them at school. Finally, students told us through the survey that they wanted more knowledge about the precolonial roles of 2SLGBTQIA+ Indigenous peoples, and that they wanted more safe spaces to gather together to celebrate their queerness. At the end of our day, our hosts extended another invitation for the 2SDL to come back and to continue our relationship building and Two-Spirit work within this community.
“Success” for the 2SDL is gauged by receiving invitations to share knowledge with community partners. It’s also about these partners sharing their knowledge with us. Through this exchange, the 2SDL builds and maintains good relationships while strengthening knowledges of Two-Spirit Indigenous communities across Turtle Island.
The 2SDL is honored and humbled to be able to work with and for these communities by being called into their canoes. Together, we chart a course on where we want to travel. Together, paddles in-hand, we begin to move as one canoe toward that horizon.