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MT Gathering Celebrates Native Two-Spirit People

Two spirit people are reclaiming some of their traditional roles in native tribes at a gathering in Montana this week. (Montana Two Spirit Society)
Two spirit people are reclaiming some of their traditional roles in native tribes at a gathering in Montana this week. (Montana Two Spirit Society)
August 13, 2019

FLATHEAD LAKE, Mont. – Indigenous people from around the world this weekend at Flathead Lake are reclaiming the roles of what some refer to as "two spirit" people.

The Montana Two Spirit Society, a Native American organization formed by LGBT groups, is holding its 24th annual gathering.

The term "two spirit" was coined in the 1990s for tribes that recognize people with both male and female characteristics who are gender non-conforming.

Steven Barrios, founder of the Montana Two Spirit Society, says two spirit people traditionally had many roles, but their duties were removed when Europeans arrived in North America.

"We're just reclaiming a lot of that responsibility – like as name givers, spiritual leaders, mediators,” he states. “We had so many different roles in our tribes that two spirit people could do."

The gathering is a drug and alcohol free event and runs through Sunday. This year's gathering also features the first annual youth gathering, which takes place Monday.

Barrios says the event for younger folks was put together at their request. He adds it's important work because there has been a rise in suicides among two spirit youth.

He explains the youth event will mirror the larger gathering and prepare the young people to host future events.

"We're going to have them put a gathering committee together, show them how it's done – the logistics, how to go about it – and put them in leadership roles, which I think is really great for our youth,” he states. “Once they're put in a leadership role, it seems like it really instills a lot of pride in them and what they do."

Barrios says Native Americans from tribes across the country, as well as indigenous people from Canada, Mexico, the Philippines and Samoan islands, will be in attendance.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT