Armchair Historians

Gregory Smithers, Reclaiming Two-Spirits

March 29, 2022 Gregory Smithers
Armchair Historians
Gregory Smithers, Reclaiming Two-Spirits
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, Anne Marie talks to Gregory Smithers about his new book, Reclaiming Two-Spirits: Sexuality, Spiritual Renewal & Sovereignty in Native America. Two Spirits is a sweeping history of Indigenous traditions of gender, sexuality, and resistance that reveals how, despite centuries of colonialism, Two-Spirit people are reclaiming their place in Native nations.

Gregory Smithers is a professor of American history and Eminent Scholar (2019-2024) in the College of Humanities and Sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University. He received his Ph.D. in History from the University of California, Davis, and has taught in California, Hawaii, Scotland, and Ohio. Smithers is currently a British Academy Global Professor, based in the Treatied Spaces research cluster at the University of Hull.

His research and writing focus on the histories of Indigenous people and African Americans from the eighteenth century to the present. Smithers is particularly interested in the rich history of the Cherokee people, Indigenous history from the Mountain South to California and the Southwest Pacific, and environmental history. His work is devoted to narrating the past in ways that are publicly accessible and connect with issues of social justice, environmental sustainability, and racial and gender equity.

Resources
Gregory D Smithers: Website: https://www.gregorysmithers.com

Reclaiming Two Spirits: Sexuality, Spiritual Renewal & Sovereignty in Native America: Penguin Random House

Twitter: @GD_Smithers
Facebook: Gregory Smithers
Tumbler: Gregory Smithers
VCU: Faculty Page
Books: Amazon

Two Spirits, Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two-spirit
Randy Burns: https://www.ebar.com/news///245430
Barbara May Cameron: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbara_May_Cameron
We'wha: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We%27wha

Documentaries
Two Spirits: https://www.pbs.org/independentlens/documentaries/two-spirits/
Coming In: https://player.vimeo.com/video/188398870?h=c4667868d1




Support the show
Anne Marie Cannon:

Hello, my name is Anne Marie cannon and I'm the host of armchair historians. What's your favorite history? Each episode begins with this one question. Our guests come from all walks of life. YouTube celebrities, comedians, historians, even neighbors from the small mountain community that I live in people who love history and get really excited about a particular time, place, or person from our distant or not so distant past. The jumping off point is a place where they became curious than entered the rabbit hole into discovery. Fueled by an unrelenting need to know more, we look at history through the filter of other people's eyes. I'm Chair historians is a Belgian rabid production. Stay up to date with us through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Wherever you listen to your podcast that is where you'll find us. I'm Chair historians as an independent, commercial free podcast. If you'd like to support the show and keep it ad free, you can buy us a cup of coffee through coffee, or you can become a patron through Patreon links to both in the Episode Notes. Hello fellow armchair historians and Murray here. First of all, I'd like to start off by saying thank you to all of my Patreon and cofee supporters, you know who you are, and it means the world. In this episode, I talked to Gregory Smithers about his new book, reclaiming two spirits, sexuality, spiritual renewal and sovereignty in Native America to spirits is a sweeping history of indigenous traditions of gender, sexuality, and resistance that reveals how despite centuries of colonialism, Two Spirit people are reclaiming their place in Native nations. Gregory Smithers is a professor of American history, an eminent scholar 2019 to 2024 in the College of Humanities and Sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University. He received his PhD in History from the University of California Davis, and has taught in California, Hawaii, Scotland and Ohio. Smithers is currently a British Academy global Professor based in the treated spaces research cluster at the University of Hall. Gregory de Smithers Welcome to armchair historians.

Gregory Smithers:

Thank you, it's a pleasure to be here.

Anne Marie Cannon:

What is your favorite history that we're going to be talking about today?

Gregory Smithers:

You know, it's funny, in the current climate, cultural and political climate we're living through that's not a straightforward question anymore. There's variables that go into defining what one's favorite history is, I wrote this history, reclaiming Two Spirits in a way that blended my favorite types of history writing and sort of history detective work. I like histories that most historians ignore. So I look at the gaps in the archives and the little cracks, where information about people's stories we don't often hear about might exist, and where most historians are not particularly interested in looking. So I'm really interested in digging into those stories that we might historically have defined as marginal. And I'm going to come back to that term in the course of our conversation, because it's a term that Two Spirit peoples themselves have used and have have sort of turned on its head to empower their own political activism since the 1970s. But in general, yeah, I mean, I enjoy histories that move beyond capital H, history, capital H history being, of course, that sort of history that came out of the Enlightenment. And it's, you know, this pretense of objectivity. And the sources for writing our history have to be written and found in an archive or in books. I see history is something much broader than that. And I don't want to say democratic, but certainly more holistic. I see history when I walk to the to the grocery store, I see history in people when they go to nightclubs and dance. I see history when people go to whatever religious service they're engaged in, whether it's football on Sunday, or an actual church or temple. History is All of those things, and getting a sense of what people bring to those moments of history making and how they understand what that means in their lives is a very difficult thing to do. It requires something that I talk about in the book quite extensive. Tivoli this this concept of radical empathy, of really trying very, very hard to take yourself out of your own skin and place yourself in someone else's position in life to try and, and get a sense of how they might be experiencing life in the past, in the present even even in the present. It's not, it's not an easy thing to do. So yeah, so I'm really interested in though sort of history making, the doing of history, the embodying of history, in all of those various venues that I talked about from high culture to low culture, but all interests me, but particularly those stories, as I mentioned, that historians typically ignore, because they think there are no sources there to study them. Right, right.

Anne Marie Cannon:

I love that. And this is exactly the kind of history I try to bring to the show. indigenous history, one of the things that I think they have over this, we talk about the big age, or, you know, European colonial history, what we lack is the stories that are passed down. And there is, you know, what is history? That's a big question. And I think that everything you just said, is what I agree with. So you're definitely preaching to the congregation. And I think that there is just, you know, so many histories that have been erased. But perhaps there are some bread crumbs that are left behind. Yeah. And and perhaps, you know, the way that we look at we have traditionally looked at history is not perhaps it's problematic. And that's what I tried to bring to my show. So I love you know, your whole philosophy and the way that you approach your subject matter. Specifically, today, I know that you have a book that's going to be coming out in April.

Gregory Smithers:

Yeah, so reclining to spirits will be out in April. And it's a story that I came to over many years of research and talking to friends throughout Indian country. And recognizing that there really hadn't been a broad sweeping history of Two Spirit people. Since the late 1980s. There have been some really very good specialized works in in the field of literary analysis. A little bit of work has come out in anthropology, and the health sciences, but in terms of historical thinking, historical knowledge, and how we understand and connect the various ways of understanding about the past to spirit histories today. That's that's something that hasn't been done for for many decades. And I think it is because that most historians tend to be wedded to their sort of methodological way of doing things. They're very much materially oriented in the sense that written archives are the sort of the gold standard for understanding the past. And that's a product of their training. It's not necessarily a deliberate form of prejudice or discrimination, although sometimes it slips into that, I have to say, and there are several books that have been written, that include analysis of Two Spirit peoples since the late 80s and early 1990s. That I think members of the Two Spirit community rightly viewed as really highly offensive works really pejorative in the way that they presented the multitude of traditions that we understand today. As to spirit.

Anne Marie Cannon:

Can we just back up for a minute? Because first, I want to know the full name of your book, let our listeners know what the title of your book is. And then could you talk more about what this idea of to spirits is? And how you kind of approach it how you mean it when you use it? Yeah, that type of

Gregory Smithers:

thing. Yeah. So the title of the book is reclaiming Two Spirits sexuality. Oh, my goodness, sexual.

Anne Marie Cannon:

Sexuality, spiritual renewal and sovereignty in Native America.

Gregory Smithers:

You go, that's the one. Yeah, I remember writing that.

Anne Marie Cannon:

I also, yeah, so that

Gregory Smithers:

so I'm an ethno historian, which means that I, I take a whole bunch of sources from wherever I can get them, written sources, archaeology, I bring anthropology to my work. It's a very promiscuous methodology that I use, because what I recognize in the work that I do is that human beings don't live in the methodological silos that historians tend to live in. You know, think about economic history, social history, you know, cultural history, whatever that means to you at any given time. So I tend to to try and understand history from all of the different perspective is kind of like if you go to a theatre production in the round, and every time you sit somewhere different in the audience, you see the same production, different times you'll hear a feel and smell something different and get something else out of the performance. And that's what I'm trying to do with a book like reclaiming to spirit is to get it those elements of, of the past how they connect with the present, how people live history and the sort of the lessons of, of elders from the past, in the present and how they're renewing them. In the 21st century. That's how I've gone about trying to understand Two Spirit histories, which is not necessarily something that has been done a lot. As I said, there's a lot of studies by literary scholars that talks about the writing and the art of Two Spirit peoples, and anthropological studies from the 1980s and 1990s, in particular, but historians in general, if they have approached this topic, it has been, I hate to say it, but taking the written archive at face value. And that written archive is filled with prejudices. It's filled with misogyny. And it's violent on many levels, violent in the way that it describes European contact with people we understand today as to spirit. And it's violent in the way that it erased Two Spirit people from the archive except as victims of colonial violence. So I was very mindful of all of that when I was writing the book. Now, I should point out this concept of Two Spirit. Although the history behind it is centuries, perhaps millennia old, the concept itself is very new. That comes out of the late 1980s and early 1990s, when LGBT Native American people were beginning to really re energize their organizing, there's been some organizing of gay and lesbian Indians in San Francisco in the 1970s, to talk about in the book, new groups coalescing around people like Randy burns, and Barbara Cameron in the San Francisco Bay area. But it wasn't really until the late 1980s and 1990s, that LGBTQ people got started to re energize those efforts and get together. And part of the reason they got together in the midst of the AIDS crisis, I should point out, too, was because they were being once again marginalized not only by mainstream, quote unquote, mainstream culture, but also by the gay and lesbian community, as well. And so they had to take things into their own hands and try to figure out a way, this sort of so called problem of naming that they were talking about at the time, what's the most appropriate label for us that we can use that's embedded in, in an indigenous tradition that might apply that might provide a political space for Native people who are LGBTQ, but are also more than that? Right? So those labels of lesbian or gay or queer was still considered very offensive in the 1980s and early 1990s. And there's a lot of elders I spoke to who still can't use that term queer. But these other labels, you know, lesbian, gay, bisexual, etc. A lot of people could say, yeah, that's part of me, but it doesn't capture the full essence of what it means to be gender and sexual sexually fluid in a native context. And so they came up with with this English translation ACU spirit, which is adopted from the Algonquin term niche, niche manner dog, which basically means feminine and masculine in a single person. And it was at the 1990 gathering of gay and lesbian Indians in Manitoba, Canada, that that was decided upon. I wasn't obviously there, but it was I can imagine it was a wonderful gathering of people coming together and debating and talking and celebrating, dancing and engaging in ceremony and people from all tribal communities throughout North America, not just the United States, but the US, Canada. The mailing list included Indigenous Australians also. So this you know, very early, this was considered sort of trans national in scope, to try and find this pan Indian umbrella term that that could be used both in a native and non native context. There's an awful lot of homophobia in Indian country at this time also, but also provide a language wedge that communities, non Indigenous communities could could recognize themselves and identify and say, Oh, that's native. Okay, how do we need to? How should we approach and engage diplomatically, culturally, socially? What are the specific needs of native communities, right and this term provide an entry point for that. And then from there, you could get down into tribal specific traditions and knowledge related to Two Spirit people. And there are many, there's, there's at least 100, and over 150 tribal communities throughout North America that we know of that had traditions of sexual and gender fluidity, and people who bridged our traditional understandings Western understandings of male and female, and as I say, probably more

Anne Marie Cannon:

so how far back do you go with the history?

Gregory Smithers:

I begin the book, I begin the book in around 1515. And that's an important date in native culture, generally, a native history generally, but specifically to Two Spirit people today. In 1515, the Spaniard Belle boa, invaded the homelands of the guava people in what is today Panama. And that is a famous scene in early colonial history in which the Spaniards set their dogs on people who they labeled sodomites. And this is where I talk where I talk, a great deal about the violence of the colonial archive, in terms of both the physical violence it exacted on people at the time, but also the sort of psychological violence that reverberates down into this into the state. So labels like SATA might hermaphrodites, the dash, a term with ancient Arabic routes, that basically designated a prostitute or a Cat Boy, you know, these are not things that existed in native cultures, right. But these are labels that Europeans used. And bow bow is one of the earliest recorded examples of this type of exterminate Tory violence being perpetrated on people because of their perceived gender and sexual orientation. And the violence was horrific. It's depicted subsequently by European engravers when I talk about in the book. But that incident, continues, sort of reverberate in the historical consciousness of a lot of Two Spirit people, and is often a link or a bridge to the history of colonial violence, and colonialism more broadly, and what it represents when they continue to encounter violence in the 21st century. And this is particularly an issue for for trans communities, generally, the moment in the United States, but particularly native trans communities, where there's an awful lot of transphobia, and violence associated with their daily lives, unfortunately. And so this contextualizes, those contemporary events, moments like that, having said that, what I do is I try to go back and contextualize then. So this is what Europeans saw, and what they imagined they saw, or I should say, and how they responded that what might indigenous people have seen, right before the Europeans got there. And so I go about that by looking at things like archaeology and art and sort of the traces of history and how people embodied their identities over time and in different spaces. To try and reconstruct how how Native people that we understand today as to spirit or call themselves today to spirit, how they would have moved around their communities, what kind of roles they would have played, bridging cleavages within their own communities, roles of educators of matchmakers, of people who nurtured the sick back to health of people with great medicinal knowledge, for example, a whole range of skills and knowledge that Two Spirit peoples had in their respective tribal communities that was effectively targeted by Europeans when they began to arrive, beginning with the Spanish and targeting quite deliberately. It's one of the things that I struggled with in writing the book was the degree to which I should portray some of that violence, both the physical violence and the violence in the language. And I talked a great deal with community members and elders about this. And the general consensus was so long as it contextualizes historic and contemporary experiences when we're okay with it, we're not concerned that you're fetishizing the violence, but that you're explaining it and historicizing it in a way that helps people understand our encounters with European colonialism. And just how incredible the fact that native knowledge related to Two Spirit peoples was able to sustain nice survive, but thrive as it is in the 21st century, through all of these centuries of different forms of violence. So, so yeah, it's in that sense, then it's this. Understanding the reclaiming of two spirits in the 21st century is a book that is sort of has that constant tension running through it of native people fighting and finding different ways to resist the oppressiveness of colonialism and the deliberate attempts of colonial actors to try and sever Two Spirit peoples from their communities. Because Europeans recognize that those Two Spirit people were in many communities, the glue that held those communities together, the knowledge keepers,

Anne Marie Cannon:

do you have a specific story about a Two Spirit person from history that, you know, maybe you could share with my listeners to get like a better, clearer understanding? Yeah,

Gregory Smithers:

there's quite a few in the story. I mean, there's, as I said, there's a lot of a lot of characters that I sort of flesh out in the book, both contemporary but also going back to the 18th and 19th centuries, but the one figure that that crops up again and again, and you see an internet searches and during pride month during Native American Heritage Month, is we will, we will a was a Zuni Allah Homina. And I mentioned we will, because I was recently at an elders panel for the Bay Area, American Indian, two spirits, they had their power because of COVID on zoom this year. And, you know, I tuned into that, and I was really struck by some of the elders talking about how younger Two Spirit people are completely unaware, not only of elders from the recent past. So the 1970s, for example, great figures, like Phil tingly, I mentioned, Barbara Cameron, Cameron, Randy burns, for example, who's who's still alive and very influential. Clyde Hall. I mean, these are instrumental figures in the contemporary Two Spirit movement. But even beyond that, some of the major historical figures who were celebrated in their own communities, but also received fleeting fame in sort of the broader media culture of America in the 18th and 19th century, a lot of younger Two Spirit, people don't know their stories. And I was surprised to hear once one of the elders talked about how these younger Two Spirit kids, they just never have heard of whee, wah. And it reminded me of two things. It reminded me of how hard we have to work, to hold on to historical knowledge, and to assimilate it meaningfully into our present lives. And it also told me how sort of reminded me of how fleeting life is and the contributions we make, which are very meaningful to us in our communities in the moment. And it feels as a historian it feels somewhat sort of cold to me that those contributions are forgotten but that's kind of the way it is we live in the present we don't most of us don't live thinking about history and the historical past.

Anne Marie Cannon:

I do yeah. I just stuck at the Pan Yeah.

Gregory Smithers:

So so we was one of those figures we want, as I mentioned, is celebrated today as this Two Spirit hero but we why herself wouldn't have used that term to describe themselves, they would have been known as Allah Homina as I said, and we what was known as a you know, a skilled artist, but also more than that is a skill diplomat, and educator of small children. All reports from from written sources and oral histories collected at the time suggests that we was absolutely loved by children. We want was was tall, about six foot so we was stood out in a crowd in the 19th century, born in 1849. Met up with a woman by the name of Matilda Kok Stevenson, who visited the Zuni in the late 19th century and began to be the friend we are and Stevenson was part of anthropological fieldwork that was being done in the southwest, quite extensively during the late 19th century. And native people then as now we're kind of, you know, leery about anthropologist and I hate to say it, but historians too, and for good reason. Anthropologist, historian, social scientists, in the early 20th century psychologist said some really terrible things about Native people and misrepresented their culture, horribly. But we were always so skilled at getting to know, people, it seems across cultural boundaries. And even though Stevenson was rather Hardy and had a very high opinion of herself, the sense that I get going over the archival material is that we will had Stevens's measure and was in some ways, using Stevenson to advance the cause not only of themselves, but of the Zuni more generally, right. And so I don't want to give away the end of the story, but the the Zuni decide that we will, we'll visit Washington DC in the 1880s. Right, and then sort of the debutante season of 1885, we were comes out into society of Washington, DC and ultimately meets the president and ostensibly serves the role as a Zuni, diplomat, pressing the President of the United States, on matters that are of utmost significance to the Zuni at the time, which is just you know, it's typical it standards, procedure for people of we was standing to play that type of role that historically think about history and the history of diplomacy. Right? It's, it's this man's world, it's a very masculine world, a macho world, saber rattling and all of that. We want was able to navigate that world more than successfully, and to the advantage of the Zuni. If, briefly,

Anne Marie Cannon:

that's a great story. Because yeah, like you say, We straddled all the different lines, and understood, it sounds like understood diplomacy, and how to utilize it for her and her tribes. betterment.

Gregory Smithers:

I think so yeah. We will was was highly intelligent, highly articulate, and skilled as a, as I say, as an as an artist, and educator, but all of those skills would have come together. For her in recognizing throughout her life, actually, that sort of shifting the shifting nature of American culture and American imperialism. I mean, we was life coincides with the sort of rising tide of American racism as it spreads across the west and its associated misogyny as well. And and you know, this wasn't too many years after the great American painter, George Catlin, expressed his desire that this tradition that we were represented, be exterminated forever that no one would understand it, that it would be sort of wiped away from the pages of history. Before scholars, much less the lay public could understand it. So that's, you know, that's quite incredible that we was able to negotiate that world. And then towards the end of we was live also negotiate a world that is moving incrementally towards taking indigenous children and severing them from traditional kinship bonds, through the boarding schools that tended to proliferate by the 1880s 1890s, and into the early 20th century. So her we was world is sort of bookmarked by those, those extreme attacks on American Indian culture. And what we understand today is as to spirit knowledge, and knowledge keeping that she was able, as you say, to, to navigate that world is reflective, both of her skill, but I think it's not uncommon for people throughout the American West, the plains, both northern and southern plains, the Pacific Northwest, and in California, for people like we want to be successful in both standing up to colonialism, but also really being very savvy in the way that they negotiated that to keep those traditions alive. And so I come back to that elder panel just this past month debates power. Well, I mean, that's why we need to remember people like we were is because they are the archives they were the ones who kept This knowledge alive and passed it down. Even if a kin member within their tribal community was not, as we would understand it today to spirit, she would have told them those stories. And those stories were kept alive by elders. And they continue to pass them down through oral traditions, through writing, through stories through arts, through just the way we embody history in our everyday lives.

Anne Marie Cannon:

I think it's a really exciting time for historians, and the way that we're starting to maybe look at history, in that there's a lot of fresh material out there, and people like you, I've had some really great, I can't tell you how grateful I am, I've had some great authors in the past week that have talked about different topics that really shone the light, you know, histories that would have been erased, you know, that we're all but erased. That's why I love doing this show. And I love to talk to people like you. And I, you know, thank you for writing this history, because it's, you know, important history.

Gregory Smithers:

I will say, I mean, I do think we as historians do have a responsibility in relation to doing these types of histories. And I say that from, from a number of perspectives, I mean, one is, I mean, for me, personally, I wasn't born in the United States, I was I was born in Australia, for all intents and purposes, an immigrant, a guest. So I'm very conscious of my outsider status on many levels. And that's both in my scholarship, a strength and a weakness. But above all else, I see it as as both an opportunity and a responsibility to the native communities that I work with and rights for, not about four. And there is a distinction because there has been this long colonial tradition in western, what we call historiography or historical writing, where European descended authors have imposed that what they interpret as their meaning of what it is to be indigenous, on to Native communities. And that was almost their intent from the beginning. And I think it's our responsibility then to listen to elders and community members today. And to sort of think about how the wishes and aspirations of those communities in the present might mesh with or knots with the historical material that we've been left with and how they can inform our reading of historical materials that were left or erased or eliminated by it by colonizers and in colonial archives. And I have to say, I mean, I've written a lot of books that have have touched upon, quote, unquote, marginal topics in American historiography or topics that historians have not wanted to touch. And there's an awful lot of erasure that's done some quite clearly deliberate gaps in the colonial archive, that you have to compensate for somehow, and you do that through engaging with Native Voices in the present, whether that be talking to people or engaging with with people's art and talking to them about ceremony, what is appropriate to include in a book, what's not? All of those things need to have a very sort of nimble and agile approach to understanding native experiences, because they are so diverse.

Anne Marie Cannon:

Why this history? I mean, you're Australian born, you're not of this community, apparently, which I didn't know why this history.

Gregory Smithers:

I am a US citizen. Now. I don't know if that doesn't seem to matter, though. Yeah, that's a really good question. I mean, I grew up in Australia, or came of age in Australia in the 19, late 1980s and early 1990s. And if anyone knows anything about Australian history, that was the era of land rights in Australia, or is seemingly the high watermark of the modern history of land rights in Australia. And that's where we have famous cases like the Mabo decision in the wick decision in the late 80s and early 90s. That seemed to be moving in a positive direction towards recognizing land rights and sovereignty of Indigenous Australians. It hasn't worked out that way. But it was such a promising era, and I might my political consciousness and my scholarly interests were formed in that context, and through a combination of, you know, undergraduate study and summer work projects, internships, were engaged in research search that we call it we'll call today global indigenous history looking at land rights throughout the colonized world, I became sort of fixated on telling stories about people who have ostensibly been bullied by colonizers for four or 500 years, and working with communities who often don't have the resources and helping younger scholars within those communities to get their own degrees and access a path towards writing or telling their particular community's history. So that was kind of the journey that I took, and I'm still on it, I don't plan to get off in anytime soon. It's a highly rewarding path, I think. I mean, nothing gives me more pleasure actually, then then talking about these topics with young minds, who then go on to do a variety of good things in their communities with this knowledge and build on it. So but I, you know, as I say, I'm very lucky. And I have to acknowledge, even though I'm an outsider to the United States have to acknowledge, you know, the privileges and the opportunities that I've received, and to do good with that. That's what I strive for through the work that I do.

Anne Marie Cannon:

Is there anything that I, we haven't talked about that you want to share with my listeners about this subject or anything else? Yeah.

Gregory Smithers:

One thing I do think is important to note is that the existence of Two Spirit people is growing, I think awareness, and consciousness is growing. And that's as a result of Two Spirit people themselves. It's a result of their, their activism. It's a result of their politics. It's a result of just some incredibly creative writing and artistic work that's being done right now among Two Spirit writers and artists. And I think, over the next decade or so, I think that's going to continue. And I think that's important. I think what needs to happen moving forward is is Two Spirit, people continue to take the lead and telling their own stories about this. People like myself in the Academy will be allies and supporters and do whatever we can to assist in that. But it's it is definitely going to be Two Spirit people who continue to push for visibility of to spirit history and culture and knowledge, not only in native communities, but in in the broader culture as well. And I think that's important. Because over the last couple years, we've seen some examples of Two Spirit people in popular culture that hasn't been particularly flattering towards Two Spirit people. The one of the more recent controversies was the representation of Two Spirit people in the HBO series Lovecraft country, which briefly represents a Two Spirit character that is ostensibly assassinated for no reason whatsoever. And that attracted an enormous amount of controversy at the time and rightly so up it was just a gratuitous representation of violence towards sexual and gender non conforming people that harken back to bow bow and all of those horrible stereotypes of the colonial archive. And there are other examples. I mean, the the show Fargo recently had a Two Spirit character, who's the character's name was Swanee, and a fairly underdeveloped character has to be said, but the actress who played her woman by the name of Kelsey, as Bill Chao, claimed to be a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. And the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians came out subsequently and said, We have no record of this person on our roles or Ever Living, being part of community. And so it was just another example of appropriation seemingly to advance a non Indigenous person's career on the back of her understanding, and perhaps stereotypes of native people. And so this is why I say it's very important. These recent cultural examples of disparate people in pop culture really underscored the need for culture makers to consult with Native communities but particularly to spirit people into spirit elders.

Anne Marie Cannon:

Is there a place in pop culture where we see representation in a positive authentic way?

Gregory Smithers:

If there is one thing I will say about The world of documentary filmmaking it is that documentarians are doing a wonderful job of capturing the diversity of Two Spirit experiences. At the moment, there's been a lot of really good documentary films that have been made through PBS. So you know, Wisconsin Public Broadcasting, for example, KQED out in the San Francisco Bay Area has done some good stuff. And there are a number of other Two Spirit documentarians who have been making films that I talked about in the book, and getting them out there. The issue is, they deserve wider distribution, because they're, they're rich that beautifully told stories. And they underscore the complexities of how history interacts with our present, to sort of create this living sense of history. And I think those stories, in my view, those stories deserve a much wider audience and they're receiving because they represent in culture, to spirit experiences in the plural, and how that notion of what it is to be to spirit is constantly changing and being negotiated. Within two spirit communities themselves is not this sort of static noun, it's we need to really kind of need to think about two spirits as a verb. It's always becoming, it's always being debated and talked about and how best can we represent ourselves and our communities? And that's what we're seeing in some of these really fabulous documentaries that are being made.

Anne Marie Cannon:

At the you have. Do you have any names of them?

Gregory Smithers:

Yeah, well, there's one documentary called to spirit that I recommend. And there's another I'm blanking on the documentary Ian's name. Now he made a documentary of debates. Powell several years ago, I forgotten his name off top my head.

Anne Marie Cannon:

We'll figure it out. I'll link i'll link out to them. That's a wonderful documentary. So I'm going to ask you again. If we're I mean, if we're pretty much finished talking about everything you wanted to talk about? The name of the book, so Okay, love it, when it's coming out, and where we can find it. And then where can we find you.

Gregory Smithers:

So reclaiming two spirits, sexualities, spiritual renewal and sovereignty in Native America will be out from you can press in April of this year 2022, you'll be able to find it on the beacon Random House, websites, Amazon, and we're all good books are sold, I would imagine. And you can find me you can find me on Twitter. I'm on Facebook, my email information is all over the internet. So I'm far too available. So if you need to get in touch, you'll be able to get in touch. And I generally respond. And you have a website. And I do it's Gregory smithers.com, I believe.

Anne Marie Cannon:

Okay. I'll link out to all those places. I've really enjoyed talking to you today. Greg, come back to the show. Anytime you have something you want to talk about new book or whatever.

Gregory Smithers:

Great. Thank you. Thank you. Yeah, no, it's been a pleasure to meet you and to chat.

Anne Marie Cannon:

There you have it. Gregory Smithers, reclaiming two spirits. Be sure to check out our episode notes to find out more about Gregory Smithers, the book reclaiming two spirits and links to more information about the history of two spirits. Thanks for joining us. Have a great week.