As we celebrate National Indigenous People’s Day, Two-Spirit Program Manager Jessy Dame provides an update on CBRC’s commitment to the TRC’s calls to action.
First off, I would like to start this post by wishing everyone a Happy National Indigenous People’s Day. With the recent discovery of 215 children on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, we at CBRC are outraged. This finding has ignited a global reckoning that can no longer be sidelined. Through this reckoning we identify the many silenced stories and missing children that can no longer be ignored. I would personally like to send out love and kindness to the families and communities of these missing children and acknowledge the pain that this discovery has brought back to the surface. I hope that together we can work to challenge the current state of systemic racism and decrease the societal barriers in place that forcibly block Indigenous communities across Turtle Island.
As CBRC’s Two-Spirit Program Manager, I’d like to provide an update on our Indigenous-led initiatives. We recognize that the act of “creating space” for Indigenous communities is not appropriate, as prior to colonization Two-Spirit and other Indigenous communities had space, thus we come to the statement of “giving back the space.” This has been done through the creation of our Two-Spirit Program, which is directed by Two-Spirit community members, as well as the creation of an internal CBRC committee that has been evaluating Indigenous participation and systemic employment barriers. Through this process we have been able to actively recruit Two-Spirit employees, Elders, and mentors who guide, create and evaluate our programming.
Sex Now data on Two-Spirit and GBTQ+ Indigenous peoples
In 2016, CBRC responded to the TRC “calls to action” (in particular those related to health) by making a series of commitments in our work going forward. Since then, we have worked hard to challenge the current state of research and data collection that has misrepresented Two-Spirit and other Indigenous communities. A top priority to challenge this was addressing the ways data is collected on the Two-Spirit community, who this data belongs to.
The results of this work are reflected in the data collected as part of the 2018 Sex Now survey. We saw historic participation from Indigenous communities, with CBRC’s team of researchers travelling across Turtle Island to speak to 271 Two-Spirit and GBTQ+ Indigenous folks (9.0% of all survey participants) about current sexual practices and mental health. Here is some of what we learned.
Representation of Two-Spirit community members
CBRC has also been working to ensure the active recruitment of Two-Spirit community members. An important factor to note is a clear understanding of participation versus tokenization. At CBRC, we are aware that for far too long Indigenous positions have been created within organizations as a means of symbolism rather than for active participation and guidance. Through our work, CBRC has been able to “give back the space” and support the hiring of nine Two-Spirit staff members. We’d like to introduce you to some of them.
Two-Spirit Celebration Day
Through the work that we do—as well as the strong connections we’ve made within our communities—it is my pleasure to announce CBRC’s commitment to an annual Two-Spirit Celebration Day.
Through the ever-growing visibility of the Two-Spirit community and our allies, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members come together today to announce the inaugural and annual Two-Spirit Celebration Day, occurring on the Spring Equinox, beginning spring 2022. This commitment from CBRC comes from a need that was determined by and for the Two-Spirit community. It is our hope to work with our many community partners to increase awareness and celebrate all Two-Spirit people on this day.
The annual Two-Spirit Celebration Day will recognize the diverse sexualities, genders, gender roles and gender expressions that existed in many Indigenous communities prior to colonization. The overall intent of this day is to bring greater awareness to—and to lift up and celebrate—Two-Spirit, trans and non-binary people and communities. Through actions, events and celebrations we will formally reintegrate Two-Spirit peoples and communities back into their respective Nations and societies in order to ensure that moving forward the Two-Spirit community will no longer be an afterthought. Two-Spirit, trans and non-binary peoples and communities will once again know the respect, honour and dignity that they had prior to colonization when Indigenous people were forced to conform to the colonizer’s rigid binary gender system and introduced foreign (and harmful) ways and concepts such as misogyny, homophobia, transphobia and cissexism.
As CBRC’s Two-Spirit Program Manager, I have to say that it is a great pleasure to be able to work for, and with, the Two-Spirit community to break down societal barriers and increase Two-Spirit representation. I believe it is important to highlight that CBRC acknowledges the value of my own healing and understands that through this healing I can better support my community. Through the support of my own reclamation of my heritage—as well as having a stronger connection to mentors and Elders—I am able to transform my own lived experiences into tools that are a benefit for community.
Wishing everyone a safe and kind National Indigenous People’s Day!
For more information on CBRC’s Two-Spirit program, contact Jessy Dame at [email protected].