Two-spirits: Conceptualization in a L’nuwey Worldview

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Sylliboy, John R.
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Mount Saint Vincent University
The term two-spirit is a social marker used by Indigenous people who are LGBTQ in North America. The term gives a sense of unity among Indigenous people because of its commonality in socio-cultural, historical and spiritual contexts about their gender, sexuality and identity in general. In Nova Scotia, the term is common in mainstream and its use is becoming more accepted in our Mi’kmaw communities. In an era of Truth and Reconciliation and the everincreasing movements of self-determination and decolonization of systemic homophobia and heterosexism, our Mi’kmaw youth question how the concept of two-spirit is interpreted within our culture. Findings show that there is no documented evidence of ancestral knowledge, teachings, or ceremonies with what we now know as two-spirit identity, before the arrival of Europeans in Mi’kma’ki. Cultural and academic interest to research two-spirit identity and how it relates to Mi’kmaw culture is important especially for Mi’kmaw youth who are barraged with cultural erosion and loss of cultural identity. Conceptualization of two-spirits is possible by analyzing how gender, sexuality and identity are contextualized using Indigenous epistemology or L’nuwey worldview in a contemporary setting. The findings confirm that understanding how gender identity and sexuality can be contextualized in a cultural context through oral tradition, such as a personal narrative, is a source of empowerment and cultural continuity. For Mi’kmaq who identify as two-spirit or with other social markers used in English, the result is always the same: we are still L’nu
Two-spirit, Indigenous peoples, LGBTQ, Mi'kmaw culture