Join the Frontier Culture Museum for the next installment of its 2023 Lecture Series. Gregory D. Smithers, VCU, will present his talk “Reclaiming Two-Spirits: How Native Americans Revitalized an Almost Lost Tradition.” 

In the summer of 1990, a small group of Native Americans gathered at a campground just outside of Winnipeg, Canada. Few of the attendees could have imagined the history they’d create. In fact, the legacy of that gathering continues to reverberate across Indian Country—and North America—today.

In the summer of 1990, delegates at the Third Annual Gathering of Gay and Lesbian Indians went back in time, to their living traditions, to set a path for their collective futures. They went back beyond Columbus and 1492 and to a time when hundreds of Indigenous communities across North America included people who identified as neither male nor female, but both.

Those ancestors went by aakíí’skassi, miati, okitcitakwe or one of hundreds of other tribally specific identities. At Winnipeg, a new term emerged: Two-Spirits, an umbrella term denoting feminine and masculine qualities in one person. But what does Two-Spirit mean? Where does it come from? And who were the people who coined a term that has reshaped almost two generations of Native American history?

Frontier Culture Museum’s 2023 Lecture Series

The Frontier Culture Museum is the biggest open-air living history museum in the Shenandoah Valley. Every year, the museum hosts a six-part lecture series with different speakers from various areas of the country. The 2023 iteration is presented both in-person and online, and is supported in part by funding from Virginia Humanities.

Vanessa Adkins, right, is apprenticing under her cousin Jessica Canaday Stewart learning the finer points of traditional Chickahominy dancing. Photos taken at the Fall Festival and Pow Wow in Charles City on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.

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