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Two-Spirit Powwow to Hold Indigiqueer Event During Pride Week in Downtown Spokane


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Two-Spirit Powwow to Hold Indigiqueer Event During Pride Week in Downtown Spokane

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News Story by Matthew Kincanon

Update: A previous version of this article misspelled one of the dancer’s names and was not clear on all the powwow dancers’ roles.

During Pride Week, Spokane Falls Two-Spirit Powwow will hold an event at Riverfront Park to celebrate two-spirit individuals in a space created for Indigiqueer people by Indigiqueer people.

It will take place on Friday, June 9, from 1-5 p.m., and organizers hope it will become an annual event.

“The inspiration behind the Two-Spirit powwow is to reclaim our genderless and gender expansion and inclusive spaces for the Indigenous community, and to rebuild those connections around trans identities and two-spirit identities.” said executive director Roo Ramos, who is a citizen of the Inupiaq People.

Ramos dreamt about it in 2022, and they and the committee started planning and organizing it this year. They said the committee consists of Two-Spirit individuals and are dedicated to creating a space that they want for themselves and others.

What Is a Two-Spirit Identity?

As to what it means for an individual to be Two-Spirit, Ramos said that it is an Indigenous-only trans identity. It is a pan-Indigenous term meaning it is a tribally-inclusive term that they’ve all agreed to because “each Tribe has their own words for their gender inclusive members, but there’s nothing that the whole community can attach to.”

“Two-Spirit is like our English word to describe our gender expansive identities in each of our different Tribal communities,” they said, adding that it’s not just an internal identity but also a responsibility to the community.

They described that it is a responsibility to their languages, cultures, young people, elders and future generations to ensure that trans and Two-Spirit identities are loved and welcomed at all points in communities.

Who Are the Powwow’s Dancers

Yusn Moore Stanger, one of the event’s head dancer, said that it is a safe place for anyone and they want Two-Spirit people to feel welcomed in the space. They hope family, friends and all allies of Two-Spirit people attend as well.

Two spirit powwow
Aiyana Reid (left) and Yusn More Stanger (right) are two of the dancers at the inaugural Two-Spirit Powwow in Spokane during Pride week. / Courtesy of Yusn Moore Stansgar

“In our culture, we’ve had Two-Spirit people since time immemorial. We had many roles and were celebrated,” Stanger said, who is a citizen of the Colville Confederated Tribes and has Coeur d’Alene and Spokane Tribe ancestry. “stʕa̓myaʔ is our word for queerness in our language and was used throughout Interior Salish territory. Its meaning is a doe with antlers and a buck with no antlers. People should see Indigiqueerness as natural because our people have always seen it this way.”

Aiyana Reid (Cowlitz Tribe with Klickitat and Mexican Native ancestry), who is a head dancer,
member of the planning committee and Stanger’s girlfriend, said that Two-Spirit people have always been celebrated in their communities and is something that needs to be upheld in present times.

Activities participants can expect at the powwow include cultural sharing, different dance styles, games, drag performances, opportunities for the crowd to get involved, influential speakers, over 20 Native American vendors and more.

Tribal Diversity and Cohesiveness Demonstrated

Lacey Bacon, an organizer, head dancer and citizen of the Shoshone Tribe, said that everyone is welcome to attend. She wants people to know that there are 574 federally recognized tribes in the U.S., and they all have their own culture and speak different languages.

“This is a great opportunity for us to demonstrate both our diversity and cohesiveness,” Bacon said. “Coming together and sharing as a community to being understanding of what the term Two-Spirit means.”

Ramos said everyone should attend this event because “our trans community members are essential to everybody.”

“Diversity and equity doesn’t just mean that the status quo is okay or known, but that all diversities are welcomed, loved and celebrated because it benefits all of us,” they said. “The more diverse and beautiful our community is, the better off we all are.”

For non-Native attendees, Stanger encourages them to research powwow protocol. Reid added that these rules include asking before taking pictures and that there are online documents that explain them.

Not only does Ramos hope that the Two-Spirit individuals in the community feel the joy and triumph of being seen, known and celebrated, but that the community is educated and able to see how powerful and important they are to all communities. 

“Two-Spirits have always existed on this land and we always will,” Ramos said. “And we’re gonna stand for ourselves, our communities, and I’m gonna stand for my Two-Spirit children and my Two-Spirit childrens’ children. We are going to make sure that there is space for them to exist and to thrive, not just survive.”

More information about the event can be found on the event’s Instagram account.

Matthew Kincanon
Matthew Kincanon
Matthew Kincanon is a communications coordinator with a journalism and political science degree from Gonzaga University. His journalism experience includes the Gonzaga Bulletin, The Spokesman-Review, Art Chowder, Trending Northwest, Religion Unplugged and FāVS News. He loves being a freelancer for FāVS because, having been born and raised in Spokane, he wants to learn more about the various religious communities and cultures in his hometown, especially Indigenous communities.

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Walter A Hesford
Walter A Hesford
1 year ago

Thanks, Matthew, for this reporting on how Two-Spirit people are welcome among Indigenous people. We have so much to learn for these people.

BJ Sarisim
BJ Sarisim
1 year ago

Thanks for this article. I’m a little surprised it doesn’t mention those born intersex. How are those 1-2% of the population whose bodies are born with attributes of both sexes considered?

Tracy Simmons
1 year ago
Reply to  BJ Sarisim

That’s a good question BJ. Maybe we can get one our Native writers to address this question in a separate column

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