Two-Spirit Reconciliation: Honouring the Truth; Reconciling for the Future

February 06, 2019

Honouring the Truth: Many cultural traditions and practices of the peoples of Turtle Island have often been misrepresented or suppressed. The misrepresentation mainly occurred because the colonizers did not have a context to frame, understand and value these ways and the suppression, primarily, occurred because these ways went against the colonizer’s christian doctrine, a doctrine that righteously justified the subjugation of indigenous bodies and lands and was one of the underlying tenets of the residential/boarding schools and such policies. This especially holds true for Indigenous notions and practices of gender, gender-roles, gender expression, sex and sexuality. This presentation explores these concepts by featuring some of the sociohistorical documentation from a nation-specific standpoint while supplementing these records and narratives with a deconstructed colonial account(s). A brief overview is offered on how this burgeoning body of knowledge is used in the service to (re)claim and restore respect, honor and dignity for today’s Two-Spirit individuals and communities as they navigate and negotiate Aboriginal and LGBTQI+ spaces, places and communities. Finally, a discussion is taken up on the (re)positioning of ‘Two-Spirit’ as this work and discussion(s) significantly differs from that of the (non-Native) LGBTQI+ movement(s) putting forth a critique of the ‘western’ framing of gender, gender-roles, gender expression, sex and sexuality; thus opening up a space that transcends and challenges the binary; thereby, creating a space to dream of a rich, complex and diverse world that acknowledges the ‘other’ while honoring, celebrating and valuing the gifts and medicines the ‘other’ has to offer thus creating a sacred (and safe) place and space that calls everyone home.

Reconciling for the Future: Building upon the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Final Report, this discussion provides an overview of the 94 recommendations of TRC’s “Calls to Action.” The framing and definition of Reconciliation provides a way to operationalize the recommendations that offer concrete and manageable avenues towards both redress and reconciliation. Significantly, this work speaks to the need for collaborative processes and decision-making for lasting and meaningful social change and overall community wellness.

Recommended readings:

Two-Spirit Conversations & Work

Let’s Take a Deep Dive Into What It Means to Identify as ‘Two-Spirit'

A Letter to White People Using the Term “Two Spirit"

Questions for personal reflection:

1. What stood out for you from today's presentation? Why did it stand out for you?

2. Reflecting upon the readings, do you view them differently or from a different lens/perspective now that you've heard today's lecture?

    2a. If there has been a shift/change in perspective, what was it        that changed?

    2b. Why you do think there was a shift/change in your understanding(s)     of the readings?

3. Is Jason Mraz's understanding of "Two-Spirit" correct? If it is not, why?

About the presenter: Harlan Pruden (First Nations Cree Nation/nēhiyaw), whose mother is from the Beaver Lake Reservation and father from the Whitefish Lake Reservation, both located in northeastern Alberta – Treaty 6 territory, works with and for the Two-Spirit community locally, nationally and internationally. Currently, Harlan is a Ph.D. student at UBC and an Educator at Chee Mamuk, an Indigenous public health program at BC Centre for Disease Control. Harlan is also the Managing Editor of the and a member of the Board of Trustees for the Vancouver Public Library and was just appointed as an Advisory Member for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Institute of Gender and Health. In August 2014, Harlan was appointed by President Obama to the US Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) and provided advice, information, and recommendations to the Secretary of Health & Human Services and the White House. (In December 2018, Harlan was (happily) fired/dismissed from PACHA by Mr. Trump via Fedex.)

This event was co-sponsored by Academic Women and the Office of the Vice-President Academic and Provost.


You can view a recording of this event here (SFU login required).