Two-Spirit Longhouse

Named after the traditional Indigenous gathering space for governance, community meetings and celebrations, CBRC’s Two-Spirit Longhouse is a virtual knowledge exchange resource for Two-Spirit and Indigenous queer and trans peoples. 

Working collaboratively and meaningfully with Indigenous partners, leaders, and Elders, CBRC is supporting the development of Two-Spirit-led programs and initiatives that enhance the health and wellbeing of Canada’s Two-Spirit and Indigenous queer and trans communities. This programming includes working to contribute culturally appropriate and relevant data and research, as well as to facilitate Two-Spirit and Indigenous-led knowledge exchange and resource development.

Here’s a list of projects we’re currently working on:

  • Indigenous-led capacity building and knowledge exchange at Summit 2020 (see our Summit 2020 Program)
  • An oral histories project with Two-Spirit Elders intended to capture their experience and wisdom to share with other Two-Spirit community members.
  • Indigenous-led analysis and knowledge exchange on Sex Now data, as well as development of an Indigenous PrEP resource
  • Community consultations with Two-Spirit and Indigenous queer and trans men in BC for Test Now, CBRC’s at-home HIV testing pilot

For more information about the team leading CBRC’s Two-Spirit Longhouse and program activities, click here. You can also contact Jessy Dame, Two-Spirit Program Manager at jessy.dame@cbrc.net.

Disponible en français.

In 2016, CBRC endorsed the Canada Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action at our annual Summit. Endorsement involved changing the way that the CBRC community recognizes Two-Spirit community members and centres their voices. Recognition would no longer be limited to participation as spectators. Instead, Two-Spirit people would become fully integrated into the culture of the organization and the delivery of our programs.

The following year, CBRC hosted a unique Two-Spirit Rites of Passage ceremony, intended to offer non-Indigenous Summit participants a traditional Indigenous worldview of how to foster community wellbeing. The ceremony was led by Coast Salish Elders Florence James, from the Penelakut Tribes, and Bill White, from the Snu’ney’muxhw First Nation.

The Two-Spirit Longhouse is a central part of CBRC’s commitment to reconciliation. It provides a space where Two-Spirit community members are empowered to guide the direction of research, policy, and practice for the benefit of their own wellbeing.

As part of his on-going work with CBRC, Rocky James, Coast Salish Emissary for the organization authored a summary of CBRC’s Truth and Reconciliation process between 2016 and 2019. The summary focuses on decolonizing our annual event, Summit (formerly the Summit for Gay Men’s Health), and how we used the event to build relationships with Coast Salish Elders and other Two-Spirit community members.


CBRC recognizes that reconciliation requires more than an endorsement. Instead, an organization must do the work to learn from Indigenous partners and to participate actively in decolonization. That is what we describe as our path or journey of Truth and Reconciliation. The Two-Spirit Longhouse seeks to empower both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to reverse historical harms and inequities.

These foundational reports offer a way forward, providing examples of concrete actions and social policies that can be undertaken in order to achieve true reconciliation. CBRC is committed to localizing these recommendations and calls to action and justice, so that we can do our part as a community organization dedicated to Two-Spirit, queer, and trans health.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
Established with the purpose of documenting the history and lasting impacts of the Canadian Indian Residential School System on Indigenous peoples, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) released a series of 94 calls to action in 2015 to address reconciliation between Canadians and Indigenous peoples. There are 7 specific Calls to Action regarding Indigenous health and wellbeing.

National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
A national crisis, the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) epidemic has been called an act of genocide. This National Inquiry produced a final report in 2019 that made significant calls to action for all Canadians, including speaking out against violence the impacts 2SLGBTQQIA people.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Adopted by the General Assembly in 2007, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) is the most comprehensive international resolution on the rights of the world’s Indigenous people, providing a global framework that enshrines their survival, dignity and wellbeing. In 2019 UNDRIP was unanimously adopted by the BC provincial government.


CBRC has worked to centre Indigenous voices at the Summit, the CBRC's annual knowledge exchange and capacity building conference on GBT2Q health.

This year’s Summit 2020 conference begins with an opening Truth & Reconciliation plenary on Wednesday, November 4. Panelists Bill White (Coast Salish Elder), Florence James (Coast Salish Elder), Rocky James and Jessy Dame will give updates on the organization’s progress toward building a Two-Spirit Longhouse, including the launch of an exciting new Oral Histories project. This session will be followed by a special plenary panel on Promoting Two-Spirit Health and Wellbeing: A Conversation with Two-Spirit Youth Leaders, featuring Tunchai Redvers (We Matter) and Marie Laing (Native Youth Sexual Health Network) in conversation with Jeffrey Ansloos (University of Toronto).

You can also view previous Summit videos, which explore Two-Spirit and Indigenous queer and trans health and wellbeing.

 


CBRC has been fortunate to be gifted wisdom and leadership by Indigenous and mostly Two-Spirit Elders when planning our events and activities. With their involvement, CBRC has been able to enrich the quality of our programming, advance the services we deliver, and improve the experiences of participants.

Bill White and Florence James

Two Coast Salish Elders have played a key role in our organization.

Florence James has been talking about Indigenous and Two-Spirit issues since Summit 2016, when her son, Rocky James introduced us to his mom. She has been able to ground the work of the CBRC in the traditional territory of local host First Nations, and the broader Coast and Interior Salish Nation. Providing access to the Hul’qumi’num language, she has also raised awareness among the CBRC community on what is involved in Coast Salish ceremony. In 2019, Florence gifted CBRC with a Coast Salish word for Two-Spirit Longhouse: Hwulhs'uq Le Lum.

Bill White carries two traditional Xwulmuxw names, Kasalid and Xelimulh. After his father died when he was five, Bill was raised by his very strong traditional mother, Kay George. He has worked with traditional Elders since the seventies all the way up to his time at the University of Victoria as its’ Aboriginal Liaison Officer (1993-2006). During that time, he was influenced by Agnes Pierre, Theresa Smith, Dr. Samuel Sam, Chief Adam Dick and Kim Recalma-Clutesi. Uncle Bill, as he’s known by some, has authored several papers on Coast Salish tradition and ceremony. You can read some of his work here:


 

Soaring Thunderbird, Leaping Wolf
William Flett, Haida Artist (2019)

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