Join Dr. Gregory Smithers, Winner of the 2023 Prose Award in Cultural Anthropology and Sociology, and Finalist for the 2023 Publishing Triangle Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction, for a sweeping history of Indigenous traditions of gender, sexuality, and resistance that reveals how, despite centuries of colonialism, Two-Spirit people are reclaiming their place in Native nations.
Reclaiming Two-Spirits decolonizes the history of gender and sexuality in Native North America. It honors the generations of Indigenous people who had the foresight to take essential aspects of their cultural life and spiritual beliefs underground in order to save them.
Before 1492, hundreds of Indigenous communities across North America included people who identified as neither male nor female, but both. They went by aakíí’skassi, miati, okitcitakwe or one of hundreds of other tribally specific identities. After European colonizers invaded Indian Country, centuries of violence and systematic persecution followed, imperiling the existence of people who today call themselves Two-Spirits, an umbrella term denoting feminine and masculine qualities in one person.
Drawing on written sources, archaeological evidence, art, and oral storytelling, Reclaiming Two-Spirits spans the centuries from Spanish invasion to the present, tracing massacres and inquisitions and revealing how the authors of colonialism’s written archives used language to both denigrate and erase Two-Spirit people from history. But as Gregory Smithers shows, the colonizers failed—and Indigenous resistance is core to this story. Reclaiming Two-Spirits amplifies their voices, reconnecting their history to Native nations in the 21st century.
About the Author
Gregory Smithers is a professor of American history whose research and teaching focuses on the histories of Indigenous people and African Americans from the eighteenth century to the present. His work is particularly interested in the rich history of the Cherokee people, Indigenous history from the Mountain South to California and the Southwest Pacific, environmental history, and the history of race, gender, and sexuality. His most recent book is "Reclaiming Two-Spirits: Sexuality, Spiritual Renewal & Sovereignty in Native America" (Beacon Press, 2022).
Professor Smithers is currently work on a history of waterways in Cherokee history. Funded by the British Academy, this research includes an interactive website entitled “Cherokee Riverkeepers,” a collaboration with the Digital Humanities Institute at the University of Sheffield.
Hampton History Museum
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