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Changing Native American Sex Roles in an Urban Context by Bea Medicine

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1 Changing Native American Sex Roles in an Urban Context by Bea Medicine
Winkte – Lakota/Dakota term for gay male Two-spirit – pan-Indian term – should be “careful and cautious to contextualize gender terms” NA in urban context - “coming out” narratives Winkte not just male homosexual role – ritualist, artist, specialist in women’s craft, herbalist, seer, namer of children, reject warrior role, power Traditionally accepted, but with colonization, growing homophobia Lesbianism, gay identity more conspicuous in urban areas, sought urban life-style in contrast to sexual repression found on reservation

2 The Pueblo of Zuni website

3 Photo by Doug Rasmussen
Who is Will Roscoe? For nearly three decades I've been on an quest for the answers to three questions central to the meaning of being queer. Who are we? Where did we come from? What are we for? Will Roscoe has been active in the the Gay movement since 1975, when he helped found Lambda, the first Gay/Lesbian organization in Montana. In 1998 he published Changing Ones: Third and Fourth Genders in Native North America (St. Martin’s, 1998) a comprehensive series of studies of two-spirit people and traditions. His most recent book, Jesus and the Shamanic Tradition of Same-Sex Love (Suspect Thoughts, 2004) received a Lambda Literary Award for best work in religion/spirituality. Roscoe holds a Ph.D. in History of Consciousness from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Photo by Doug Rasmussen

4 Alternative gender roles were among the most widely shared features of North American societies. Male berdaches have been documented in over 155 tribes. In about a third of these groups, a formal status also existed for females who undertook a man’s lifestyle, becoming hunters, warriors, and chiefs. They were sometimes referred to with the same term for male berdaches and sometimes with a distinct term—making them, therefore, a fourth gender. (Thus, “third gender” generally refers to male berdaches and sometimes male and female berdaches, while “fourth gender” always refers to female berdaches.)

5 Although there are important variations in berdache roles, they share a core set of traits that justifies comparing them: Specialized work roles. Male and female berdaches are typically described in terms of their preference and achievements in the work of the “opposite” sex and/or unique activities specific to their identities; Gender difference. In addition to work preferences, berdaches are distinguished from men and women in terms of temperament, dress, lifestyle, and social roles; Spiritual sanction. Berdache identity is widely believed to be the result of supernatural intervention in the form of visions or dreams, and/or it is sanctioned by tribal mythology; Same-sex relations. Berdaches most often form sexual and emotional relationships with non-berdache members of their own sex.

6 The Third Gender Concept
A third gender is only one possibility, but I do think it is useful for describing those instances of roles that cannot be explained in terms of binary male or female genders, in belief systems that do not fix gender in sex or define sex as stable and finite. What does all this have to do with sexual minorities today? In fact, I think we have a real stake in the discovery of multiple genders. As long as the language for talking about difference is confined to the possibilities of two mutually exclusive, fixed positions, I am convinced that lesbians, gay men, and others are bound to come off looking bad—as defective, counterfeit, or imitation males and females. ©1995 by Will Roscoe This talk was presented at the conference “Lesbian and Gay History: Defining a Field” held at the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies, City University of New York, October 7,

7 Berdache – Anthropological term – a man who combined the work and social roles of men and women, an artist and a priest who dressed, at least in part, in women’s clothes Hermaphrodite – While some berdaches may have been born with anomalous genitals, the known incidence is too rare to account for the number of berdaches Llhamanas – Zuni berdache – were typically homosexual, but not exclusively so. Gay Native Americans – Gay in their usage connotes a lifestyle that encompasses religious, economic, and social dimensions as well as sexuality Gender – situationally determined Third Gender – We’wha neither man nor woman We’wha 1849 – National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution

8 Two-Spirit - The term Two Spirit refers to another gender role believed to be common among most, if not all, first peoples of Turtle Island (North America), one that had a proper and accepted place within indigenous societies. This gender role was not based in sexual activities or practices, but rather the sacredness that comes from being different. This definition is not meant to replace cultural and traditional teachings, which speak to this role. It is intended to find common ground and to help educate in a contemporary context.

9 Two-spirited People Few unmediated documents, sexual histories repressed under patriarchal colonization Studies on two-spirited burdened by the need to provide counter-histories Two-spirited people not solely defined by social marginalization as by cultural and spiritual tribal traditions 1886 National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution What do Third Genders tell us about the Practice of Gender-making?

10 Raw and Cooked (p ) Metaphors for the process of socialization. What made Zunis cooked was the social forms they learned, especially religion, but also economic and kinship roles. New born infants considered raw because they were unsocialized Zuni men and women were not born; they were made or cooked through initiations and rites. Before the ages of four to six, gender was not emphasized as an attribute. Children of both sexes called cha’le’ or child At death We’wha was placed in pants and a skirt – Pants = raw state (male), skirt = cooked (female) In a society like Zuni, where infants are considered “raw” and ungendered until cultural intervention makes them “cooked,” gendered adults, biology is reduced to a minimum. “Sex” counts for nothing compared to the requisite ritual and social experiences that render raw infants into cooked people. In contemporary North American and northern European society, on the other hand, both sex and gender are important categories.

11 Ideal to be k’okshi – good, obedient, attractive, live in balance
Zuni Values High status and economic independence of Zuni women (matrilineal and matrilocal) Men do not own children, they belong to the mother’s clan Ideal to be k’okshi – good, obedient, attractive, live in balance Complimentarity – men responsible for religion, women responsible for family, gardens, home Decentralized authority, clan systems, consensus Zunis believe they live in the middle of the earth, travel the middle road, smooth conduct 1886 National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution

12 1879 Matilda Stevenson arrived to Zuni (husband James Stevenson, Frank Hamilton Cushing) with the Bureau of Ethnology expedition. Discovered Zuni girl “the most intelligent person in the pueblo”. Developed friendship We’wha lived with the Stevensons in 1885 in Washington, DC. High profile in press – Zuni maiden, priestess, girl, princess. At Smithsonian demonstrated crafts, interpreted collections, performed an Indian dance at kermes, visited President Cleveland We’wha considered him/herself a representative of the Zuni tribe

13 We’wha’s contributions:
Cultural preservation – ceremonial knowledge, research wf. Stevenson Economic development – among first Zunis to make pottery and textiles for sale Cross-cultural relations – intermediary between soldiers, school teachers, anthropologists and the pueblo of Zuni 1886 National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution


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