Before 1492, hundreds of Indigenous communities across North America included people who identified as neither male nor female, but both. They went by ake’skassi, miati, okitcitakwe or one of hundreds of other tribally specific identities. With the arrival of European colonizers, centuries of violence and systematic persecution followed, imperiling the existence of people who today call themselves Two-Spirits, an umbrella term denoting feminine and masculine qualities in one person.
Drawing on written sources, archaeological evidence, art, and oral storytelling, Reclaiming Two-Spirits spans from the Spanish invasion to the present, tracing massacres and inquisitions and revealing how the authors of colonialism’s written archives used language to both denigrate and erase Two-Spirit people from history. But as Gregory Smithers shows, the colonizers failed. Reclaiming Two-Spirits amplifies their voices, reconnecting their history to Native nations in the 21st century.