On Thursday, November 21, Two Spirit Working Group leaders and tribal leaders from across the country met at Lewis and Clark College for the “Tribal Equity Toolkit Release Party and Roundtable.” The roundtable was convened by the Indigenous Ways of Knowing (IWOK) Program, which is a program led by Se-ah-dom Edmo. Edmo, who is both a coalition partner of Basic Rights Oregon (BRO) and a member of BRO’s Two Spirit Working Group, has been fighting for Two Spirit justice as an organizational leader for the past four years. The discussion provided tools for how to move Two Spirit and LGBT justice forward in Indian Country. Basic Rights Oregon was honored to attend and to participate as an ally organization during this day-long event.
“Within Tribal communities, family is important, and within most Native families, we know someone who is Two Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender…By accepting our Two Spirit/LGBT family members, we strengthen all families in our community,” said Edmo, during the day-long event.
The term Two Spirit is a phrase developed by Native American communities that can be applied to LGBT Native Americans. Use of the term carries a tradition of respect and reverence to the role of LGBT individuals within Native American communities prior to colonization.
For the past few months, IWOK has been leading a group of community partners to release the “Tribal Equity Toolkit v 2.0.” The Toolkit is a guidebook of policy recommendations that tribal leaders can utilize in order to make tribal communities more welcoming for Two Spirit families. The original version included topics such as Marriage, Employment, Education, Hate Crimes and Housing. In this updated version, tribal codes have been added as well as new sections including Law Enforcement, Identity Documents, and a Two Spirit/LGBT Glossary.
Se-ah-dom Edmo spoke to tribal leaders at the roundtable sharing that:
“Native Two Spirit/LGBT individuals face amongst the highest disparities across all social and health indicators. These disparities lead to cumulative outcomes that affect every area of life…These disparities do not need to be permanent. There are many ways for tribal governments to exercise their sovereignty to address the structural barriers that many Two Spirit/LGBT Native people face. Tribal governments can develop codes and policies that promote equality and include and reflect the experiences of Two Spirit/LGBT tribal citizens.”
BRO has been honored to support this effort and to add an LGBT justice lens to this groundbreaking resource. Please click here for more information about this resource: Tribal Equity Toolkit
IWOK also unveiled the results of their recent community mapping project. During 2013, over 30 tribal leaders, tribal employees, spiritual leaders and cultural leaders were interviewed about their readiness to implement codes from the Tribal Equity Toolkit. The information gathered included a range of responses and revealed that many tribal leaders were ready to move on Two Spirit equality now. These inspiring, real, and sometimes painful stories helped to ground all the attendees on the importance of this work.
Aubrey Harrison, Basic Rights Oregon Deputy Director, spoke at the roundtable saying:
“We are committed to a broad and inclusive vision for equality that guides us to work for racial justice and uphold and protect Tribal Sovereignty, to build authentic relationships across communities and Sovereign Nations, and to lift up the voices of those who have been traditionally marginalized, especially gay & transgender people of color and transgender Oregonians. We believe this is the core of who we are and what our work is about.”
Two Spirit leaders from around the country were able to join forces in November to build community, push for justice, and to create a stronger movement for tomorrow. Basic Rights Oregon was proud to be a part of that sacred work.
If you are interested in getting more involved in the Racial Justice Program, please contact us!