Native Americans Acknowledged 5 Genders Even Before European Christians Forced Gender Roles

by Ane Krstevska




Native Americans Acknowledged 5 Genders Even Before European Christians Forced Gender Roles

The Natives adopted their ideas of gender roles when the Europeans took over North America. For Native Americans, there were no rules which said that men and women had to abide by so they would be considered a “normal” member of the tribe to which they belong.

In fact, those people that had both female and male characteristics were seen as gifted by nature, and because of that, they also had the ability to see both sides of everything. According to Indian Country Today, all of the native communities acknowledged the following gender roles: “Female, male, Two Spirit female, Two Spirit Male, and Transgendered.”

Each of the tribes has their own specific term, but there was also a need for a universal term which the general population could understand. The Najavo refer to Two Spirits as Nadleehi or “one who is transformed”, among the Lakota is Winkte which is indicative of a male that has a compulsion to behave as a female, Niizh manidoowag or “two-spirits” in Ojibwe, Hemaneh or “half man half women” in Cheyenne, to name a few of them. Since the purpose of “Two Spirit” is to be used as a universal term in the English language, it cannot always be translatable with the same meaning in Native languages. For instance, in the Iroquois Cherokee language, there is actually a way to translate the term, but the Cherokee do have gender variance terms for ‘women that feel like men’ and vice versa.

The culture of Native Americans of “Two-Spirit” was actually one of the first things that Europeans worked to destroy, as well as to cover up. According to some people, such as the American artist George Catlin, the Two-Spirit tradition had to be eradicated before it will be mentioned in history books. Catlin said the tradition:

…It has to be extinguished before it can be more fully recorded.

However, it was not only the white Europeans who tried to hide any trace of native gender-bending. According to Indian Country Today:

The Spanish Catholic monks destroyed most of the Aztec codices in order to eradicate traditional Native beliefs and history, which include those that told of the Two-Spirit tradition.

During these efforts by the Christians, the Native Americans were forced to dress, as well as to act according to some newly assigned gender roles.

One of the most celebrated Two Spirits in the recorded history was Lakota warrior aptly who was named Finds Them And Kills Them. Osh-Tisch was born a male, and he married a female, but adorned himself in women’s clothing and lived daily life as a female. On the 17th of June, 1876, Finds Them And Kills Them gained his reputation when he rescued a fellow tribesman during the Battle of Rosebud Creek. It was an act of fearless bravery.

In the Native American cultures, people were actually valued for their contributions to the tribe, rather than for masculinity or femininity. The parents did not assign gender roles to children either, and even the clothing of their children tended to be gender neutral. There were no ideas or ideas about how a person should love; it was simply a natural act which happened without judgment or any hesitation.

Without a negative stigma attached to being a Two-Spirit Person, there were no some inner-tribal incidents of retaliation or violence toward the chosen people, simply because of the fact that individuals identified as the opposite or both genders.

The Two-Spirit people in pre-contact Native America were actually highly revered, and families that included them were considered lucky. Indians also believed that a person that had the ability to see the world through the eyes of both genders at the same time was considered as a gift from The Creator.

Soon, some religious influences brought significant prejudice against “gender diversity,” so this has forced once openly alternative or androgynous people to one of two choices. They could live in hiding, and for fear of being found out, or they could simply end their lives. A lot of them did just the last thing mentioned.

Featured Image Credit: peacequarters





Ane Krstevska
Ane Krstevska

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