- Stolen From Our BodiesFirst Nations Two-Spirits/Queers and the Journey to a Sovereign Erotic
This is a Warrior Song From one poor Skin to another And I don't know what I'm lookin' for But I know I've found you These words will shuffle across concrete Will float across the Rockies To the Smokey Mountains We were stolen from We were stolen from We were stolen from our bodies We were stolen from our homes And we are fighters in this long war To bring us all back home And this is a Warrior Song From one poor Skin to another And I don't know what I'm lookin' for But I know I've found you U-ne-la-nv-hi U-we-tsi I-ga-gu-yv-he-yi Hna-quo-tso-sv Wi-yu-lo-se But I know I've found you [End Page 50] And this is a Warrior Song From one poor Skin to another And I don't know what I'm lookin' for But I know I've found you1
This song came to me one night a few years ago as I began to understand that healing our sexualities as First Nations people is braided with the legacy of historical trauma and the ongoing process of decolonization. Two-Spirits are integral to this struggle: my own resistance to colonization as a Cherokee Two-Spirit is intimately connected to my continuing efforts to heal from sexual assault and the manifestations of an oppressive overculture on my erotic life. Like other Two-Spirit people, I am making a journey to a Sovereign Erotic that mends our lives and communities.2
I mention my experiences with trauma in this essay because sexual assault, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia are entangled with the history of colonization. Sexual assault is an explicit act of colonization that has enormous impacts on both personal and national identities and because of its connections to a settler mentality, can be understood as a colonial form of violence and oppression. My own journey back to my body, and the journeys of other First Nations people back to their bodies, necessarily engage historical trauma. In her book Shaking the Rattle: Healing the Trauma of Colonization Barbara-Helen Hill (Six Nations, Grand River Territory) writes:
All of the abuse and addiction that we are seeing in communities are symptoms of the underlying cause, the oppression and the stress of living in isolation on reservations or in Native communities within the larger non-Native communities. . . . Healing the spirit of the individual will eventually spread to healing the spirit of family and this in turn will spread out into the communities. . . .(36)
When I speak of a Sovereign Erotic, I'm speaking of an erotic wholeness healed and/or healing from the historical trauma that First Nations people continue to survive, rooted within the histories, traditions, and resistance struggles of our nations. I am in agreement with Audre [End Page 51] Lorde when she writes, "Our erotic knowledge empowers us, becomes a lens through which we scrutinize all aspects of our existence, forcing us to evaluate those aspects honestly in terms of their relative meaning in our lives" (57). I do not see the erotic as a realm of personal consequence only. Our relationships with the erotic impact our larger communities, just as our communities impact our senses of the erotic. A Sovereign Erotic relates our bodies to our nations, traditions, and histories.
The term "Two-Spirit" is a word that resists colonial definitions of who we are. It is an expression of our sexual and gender identities as sovereign from those of white GLBT movements. The coinage of the word was never meant to create a monolithic understanding of the array of Native traditions regarding what dominant European and Euroamerican traditions call "alternative" genders and sexualities. The term came into use in 1990 at a gathering of Native Queer/Two-Spirit people in Winnipeg as a means to resist the use of the word "berdache," and also as a way to talk about our sexualities and genders from within tribal contexts in English (Jacobs et...