between the queer and indigenous communities in canada : a conversation
The following does *not represent the views of all Canadian queers or all people working on native struggles (native people and their non-native supporters). My perspective is only that, my perspective.
Basically, there are two connections that I am aware of between the queer communities and indigenous communities here. One is the many indigenous activists that are two-spirited (a term used by many indigenous 'gay' people, as it is felt to be more close to the traditional terminology and sense than the word 'gay')/lesbian/gay/bisexual. The other is the non-indigenous queers who are involved in supporting indigenous sovereignty. There are a few groups that have been set up to create support & advocacy for two-spirited people within North America.
As far as I know, it is mostly an relationship between some non-native individual queers and native movements, rather than a relationship between queer communities and native communities per se. For example, I am a gay female-to-male transsexual who has been working in a native solidarity movement since 1992, but there is no relationship between my gay/transgendered communities, as a whole, and indigenous communities. (There are indigenous individuals in both those communities, and some of those individuals are active in native movements, while others aren't.)
It has been interesting to see the response from non-native Australians to the Canadian government's quasi-apology for stealing native children and abusing them in residential schools and 'foster care' programs. Response here has been mixed. Some people feel it is a real step forward. Others think it's empty words. It is certainly very cautious, as the government doesn't want to admit any legal liability, which could translate into financial liability depending on the outcome of the many lawsuits that are pending.
I have not been able to find much information except for one article on the Berdache and some interesting material on black/gay relations in the US.
There are a number of writers who are very important. I am most familiar with female writers, as that was my primary community before I started the process of the sex change - I don't yet know much about the queer male communities here.
In terms of North American two-spirited/lesbian/bi indigenous writers and activists, the ones that come to mind are Chrystos, Beth Brant, Ana Castillo, and Gloria Anzaldua. The group Gay American Indians (GAI) was founded in the '80s, by a woman named Barbara Cameron, but I don't know if it is still around.
Some other important authors include: Joy Harjo, Janice Gould, Mary Moran, Kateri Sardella, Percy Lezard, Vickie Sears, and Lisa Kahaleole Chang Hall.
In terms of North
American transgendered resources, one of the most prolific activists who
is gay and indigenous is a female-to-male transsexual named Gary
why do you think that those organised queer communities have not been involved?Is this because 'their' issues are seen as more pressing?Is it because people like yourself have chosen to place their energies with the indigenous movement rather than changing queer communities?
I think that it is
a matter of:
That is a HUGE question that I will try to answer somewhat concisely.
Generally speaking, there are several threads to anti-racist movements here. There are groups that organize specifically by 'race' - so there are black groups, Asian groups, etc. There are coalitions of anti-racist groups that tend to include people of various heritages and skin colors; from what I have seen these tend to not work on issues that are specifically related to indigenous activism per se, but more on issues of police violence, immigration (and there is a lot of tension in some communities between immigrant rights activists and indigenous activists, which is a whole 'nother story), media depictions, etc. There are white anti-racist activists who tend to focussed on either organized racism (neo-nazis) or mainstream 'multiculturalism'. From what I have seen, very few groups that bill themselves as 'anti-racist' have done consistent long-term work to support indigenous struggles.
Again, some of this is because many indigenous struggles here focus on land rights, and that is not a shared struggle with other groups of people of color here. There is a particular type of anti-native racism which occurs within all non-native communities, including communities of people of color (as there is anti-Asian prejudice that occurs within native communities, tension between Asian and black communities, etc. Nothing is simple.)
organizing has, to the best of my knowledge, tended to focus more
on service provision than on coalition work with anti-racist groups, but
that has changed somewhat around issues like AIDS, sex trade work,
police violence, etc.
Has the AIDS pandemic assisted the emergence of organised 'gay' indigenous communities (as it decidedly has here)?
My work has been almost solely with indigenous sovereigntists, who are primarily rurally-based (with a few urban exceptions). So I don't really have an accurate sense of what is happening in the cities, especially around alliances between groups over issues like AIDS.
From my perspective the focus on AIDS so far, at least in Canada, has been on urban areas. Now people are realizing that it is spreading like wildfire to the reserves, by people who move between cities and reserves. So there are strategies that are developing around that.
My perception is
that it is writing and academia primarily that has brought together 'gay'
indigenous activists, who have then sought to form 'gay' indigenous
communities. On a grassroots level, the only 'gay' indigenous communities
I've seen have been among sex trade workers and prisoners, but then
those are the groups I do my other work with, so that's what I'm most
(this is edited from email between Joshua
Goldberg and the Site Maintainer)
why 'Berdache' is offensive and some definitions of 'Two-Spirit'