Red Deer Native Friendship Society Awakens the Gift of Two Spirits
RDDCF presents $40,000 grant through the Fund for Gender Equality
Long before European contact, the Indigenous people of North America once recognized a third gender now known as Two-Spirit. These individuals combined a balance of both male and female spirits, and this was viewed as sacred. These individuals were not only accepted into their communities but also revered for their unique abilities and contributions. They fulfilled a diverse number of important roles.
Because of a grant of $40,000 through the Fund for Gender Equality, the Red Deer Native Friendship Society (RDNFS) will be hiring someone to research the unique history and traditional teachings of Two-Spirit people. The teachings will then be shared at ceremonies, bringing awareness of the cultural and spiritual significance of Two-Spirit people back into Central Alberta.
“The Red Deer Native Friendship Society has become the Indigenous hub for connecting people from all backgrounds to the many programs and resources we offer the community,” Donna Bishop, Cultural Connections Team Lead for the RDNFS said. “We are sharing more and more of the old knowledge and ceremonies that were extinguished long ago.”
One of the most important among these teachings, Bishop said, are those of the Two-Spirit. “We have been discussing this project for the last three years,” she said. “This opportunity came at the right time for us to re–introduce the teachings.”
RDNFS will be creating a space for Two-Spirit people to explore identity with other Two-Spirit and gender diverse individuals with the support of Elders.
“This will also be beneficial to our youth who are struggling with their sexuality, culture and identity,” Bishop said. “We have had many youth who need a safe space to work with the Elders and helpers during their journey – and we know in our hearts, this program may even save lives.”
Program activities would include Two-Spirit sweat lodge teachings and ceremony, finding Elders and spiritual advisors with the knowledge of Two-Spirit teachings to do educational sessions, building relationships with 2SLGBTQ community organizations, and facilitating sharing circles for Two-Spirit youth and adults.
“It will truly create the educational and spiritual inclusiveness that we are ready in all areas of the medicine wheel to address,” Bishop said. “To pioneer such an important project is a gift we must treat as sacred.”
I grew up in a family that had many rainbow warriors. I have brothers, cousins and many friends who are a part of the rainbow community. I really did not understand, when I was growing up, that society didn’t feel as ok or comfortable as I did. When I got older is when I started understanding the discrimination of the rainbow community. I witnessed many tears and lives lead in secret or confusion – and it would break my heart to have to be quiet about it and keep secrets so my family members would be safe. So, I prayed for a long time to be a part of something bigger; when Creator’s time was right for me to do this… Well, this is that time.
~ Donna Bishop, Cultural Connections Team Lead/Mentor, Red Deer Native Friendship Society