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  • Becoming Two-Spirit | Excerpt from book on Native American Gay Identity and Social Acceptance

    by Brian Joseph Gilley | Photos and additional info provided by DeShong Perry-Smitherman, Eiteljorg public relations manager | Aug 28, 2013


    Traditional Navajo/Diné people recognize four genders and hold a respected place for same-sex unions within their culture.

    The Two-Spirit man occupies a singular place in Native American culture, balancing the male and the female spirit even as he tries to blend gay and Native identity. At 12:30 p.m., Saturday, Sep. 28, learn more about the Two-Spirit identity during the screening of Two Spirits and a panel discussion at the Eiteljorg Museum. In his book, Becoming Two-Spirit, Indiana University professor Brian Joseph Gilley features Two-Spirit men who speak frankly of homophobia within their communities, a persistent prejudice that is largely misunderstood or misrepresented by outsiders. Here is an excerpt from the book. 

    Gender Diversity and the Cultural Crossfire
    Two-Spirit men are well aware that at one time in the history of Native America, mostly before European contact, sexual and gender diversity was an everyday aspect of life among indigenous peoples. The following historical overview of Native American gender diversity is intended to help frame the ways contemporary Two-Spirit men are in the cultural crossfire between contemporary constructions of Native identity and historical knowledge. As we will see throughout the book, the history of acceptance of sexuality and gender diversity within Native communities places Two-Spirit men’s desires at odds with contemporary community expectations. Two-Spirit men are well aware that at one time in the history of Native America, mostly before European contact, sexual and gender diversity was an everyday aspect of life among indigenous peoples. The following historical overview of Native American gender diversity is intended to help frame the ways contemporary Two-Spirit men are in the cultural crossfire between contemporary constructions of Native identity and historical knowledge. As we will see throughout the book, the history of acceptance of sexuality and gender diversity within Native communities places Two-Spirit men’s desires at odds with contemporary community expectations.

    What scholars generically refer to “Native American gender diversity” was a fundamental institution among most tribal peoples. The fact that there were men among North America’s tribal peoples who preferred to do women’s work, dressed in a mixture of female and male clothing, and had sexual and domestic relationships with men is extensively documented in the academic and colonial –era literature. However, among Native societies these male-bodied gender-different people, referred to as “berdaches” in the academic and colonial literature, were in fact not considered men; rather, they were a separate or third gender (Roscoe 1993:336-349). Lang refers to the male bodied third-gender person as women-men, which I find a convenient descriptive term in lieu of the colonial term berdache (1998, xvi). Not to be confused with transvestitism, this third gender often embodied a mixture of the social, ceremonial, and economic roles of men and women. For example, among the Zuni there were men, women and lhamana. Lhamana was the third gender occupied by a male-bodied person. The lhamana dressed as women and performed women’s crafts such as weaving and potting, but also had the physical strength to fulfill certain male-oriented pursuits such as hunting big game and cutting firewood (Roscoe 1991:22-28).
    - Becoming Two-Spirit, Brian Joseph Gilley, p 7-8

    Gilley's panel and book signing is at 12:30 p.m., Saturday, Sep. 28 as part of the museum's Out West series. The signing takes place after the screening of the powerful documentary, Two Spirits. This film is about the brief life and tragic hate-crime murder of Two-Spirit teen Fred Martinez. 
     

     SEP. 28 OUT WEST SCHEDULE

    12:30 p.m. Welcome by Gregory Hinton, Out West founder
    12:45 p.m. "Two Spirits" film screening
    1:45 – 3:30 p.m. Panel discussion
    3:30 p.m. DVD/book signing Eiteljorg Museum Store
     
    Two SpiritsTWO SPIRITS PANEL
     - Moderator: Jodi A. Byrd, Ph.D. (Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma), associate professor of American Indian Studies and English, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
      - Lydia Nibley, director, Two Spirits
      
    - Brian Joseph Gilley, Ph.D. (Cherokee of Oklahoma), associate professor of anthropology and director of the First Nations Educational and Cultural Center, Indiana University Bloomington; author of Becoming Two-Spirit
      
    - Wesley K. Thomas, Ph.D. (Diné), chair/professor, School of Diné Studies, Education & Leadership, Navajo Technical College (Crownpoint, NM)

    About Out West
    Out West was conceived by author and independent curator Gregory Hinton. Hinton created the program series to illuminate positive contributions of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community to the history and culture of the American West.

    Support LGBT Programming at the Eiteljorg
    Donate to

    Help support the screening and discussion of the powerful film, TWO SPIRITS, an acclaimed PBS Independent Lens documentary that tells the story of the brief life and tragic murder of transgender Navajo teen, Fred Martinez. The film, including a panel discussion, will take place at 12:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 28.

    To donate to this project, click
    Power2Give. Chase Bank will contribute one dollar for every dollar donated. To learn more about the film visit the website: twospirits.org.

    Photo #1 credit - Historic photo of Navajo couple from the collection of the Museum of New Mexico. Photographer: Bosque Redondo 1866. 

     

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  • Unlock the mystery of the totem pole

    by Cathy Burton, Eiteljorg Director of Education | Aug 19, 2013

    Marmon Family Totem Pole 

    Author Richard Feldman, M.D. will be in Indy Tuesday, Aug. 19, talking about his new book, Home before the Raven Caws: The Mystery of a Totem Pole

    In 1903, a collection of totem poles were removed from Sitka National Historical Park. The 15 poles were sent to the 1904 World’s Fair, the Louisiana Purchase Centennial Exposition, in Saint Louis. One pole was damaged and moved to another part of the fair. At the end of the fair 13 poles were sent back to Alaska, as promised to the Native Alaskans.  One pole went to the Milwaukee Public Museum. The repaired pole was sold and people lost track of it and thought it was missing. Dr. Feldman discovered that the missing pole was given to David Parry of Indianapolis  and it was placed in the Golden Hill neighborhood in 1905. The pole was the namesake for “Totem Lane” and eventually rotted and fell, in 1939. Dr. Feldman continued the Totem Pole Project research and raised community interest in bringing a new pole to Indianapolis. One of the delightful chapters in the story was to find out that the carver for the new pole, Lee Wallace, was the great-grandson of the original carver.  

    While visiting R.B. Annis Western Family Experience on the Canal level of the Eiteljorg Museum, young people can see a totem pole and build their own using various symbols.

    The Native Haida family who owned the right to tell their ancestral story, the Yeltatsie Family, allowed their story to be carved on the new pole. While not an exact replica, the totem pole, inside at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, carries the same story as the original, the story of Wasgo the sea monster, or what the Haida people would call a sea wolf.

    Dr. Feldman will speak about the tale of the missing pole and how it ended up in Indiana. His talk will be  in the Multipurpose Room at the Indiana Historical Society tomorrow from Noon to 1 p.m. The Historical Society is located at 450 West. Ohio, downtown Indianapolis.

    You’re encouraged to buy or bring in your lunch to enjoy during their Author Series.

    Cathy Burton
    Director of education


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  • TWO SPIRITS film about the short life and murder of Navajo teen to be screened at the Eiteljorg

    by DeShong Perry-Smitherman, Eiteljorg public relations manager | Aug 07, 2013

    Two Spirits
    In June 2001, the body of 16-year-old Navajo teenager Fred Martinez was found on a dirt road in the Southwest Colorado town of Cortez. Martinez had been bludgeoned beyond recognition by a man who had bragged about the crime, according to an anonymous tip.

    Martinez was the victim of a hate crime. He never considered himself gay or transgendered. Instead, he identified himself as nádleehí (nod-lay), which is a Navajo term defined as a male-bodied person who has a feminine essence. That term in English is “Two Spirit.”

    On Saturday, Sep. 28, the documentary "Two Spirits" will be viewed at the Eiteljorg, followed by a panel discussion. The film is about Martinez’s brief life and tragic murder. We talked with director Lydia Nibley and Out West curator Gregory Hinton about the film and why they’ve chosen the Eiteljorg to show it.

    EITELJORG: What does the term “Two-Spirit” mean?
     
     
    LYDIA: On nearly every continent, and for all of recorded history, thriving cultures have recognized, revered, and integrated people who have more than two genders. Terms such as “transgender” and “gay” are strictly new constructs that assume there are only two sexes (male/female), just two sexualities (gay/straight), and only two genders (man/woman).Yet hundreds of distinct societies around the globe have their own long-established traditions for third, fourth, fifth, or even more genders.

    Fred Martinez, the subject of the film "Two Spirits," was not a boy who wanted to be a girl, but both a boy and a girl. Most Western societies have no direct correlation for this Native Two-Spirit tradition, nor for the many other communities without strict either/or conceptions of sex, sexuality, and gender. Worldwide, the sheer variety of gender expression is almost limitless.

    The term “Two-Spirit” was recently created by Native people as a short, useful phrase in English that could begin to represent concepts that are much more nuanced and complex, and that are represented in over 200 Native languages.

    EITELJORG: What will people learn from the film?

    LYDIA: We hope people take away a new appreciation for the richness of gender. Fred was considered to have a special gift according to his ancient Navajo culture. If he had lived, he could have participated in multiple roles in sacred ceremonies, counseled couples, offered insight as a matchmaker, expressed gifts as a medicine person. But the place where two discriminations meet is a dangerous place to live, and Fred became one of the youngest hate-crime victims in modern history when he was brutally murdered at 16. "Two Spirits" interweaves the tragic story of a mother’s loss of her son with a revealing look at a time when the world wasn’t simply divided into male and female and many Native American cultures held places of honor for people of integrated genders. We hope the story of Fred and other Two-Spirit people in history and in contemporary life inspires people to think and feel differently about what is possible. To embrace all of the human family because as the Navajo/Diné say, “we’re all the five-fingered people.”
     
    EITELJORG: Why show "Two Spirits" at the Eiteljorg?

    GREG: The Eiteljorg is a great place to have complex conversations. With its innovative public programming, your museum is a leader in offering socially relevant programs that expand imagination and promote respectful, intellectual discourse. The film team is thrilled to screen "Two Spirits" in this legendary institution as a way of linking the past and present, and we hope that having sophisticated conversations around gender can help us all shape a more equitable and humane future.

    EITELJORG: What does this film do for LGBT or Two-Spirit teenagers who are at risk for bullying or violence?

    LYDIA: We hope "Two Spirits" moves attitudes from mere tolerance, or acceptance, to a celebration of LGBT and Two-Spirit people. The film demonstrates how people who express multiple genders contribute to their families, friends, and communities not in spite of, but because of who they are. That’s a big change. It’s about same sex unions having been honored for thousands of years. It’s about a natural spectrum of gender. It’s about respecting who people really are and what they have to contribute. Like when a young person comes out to their traditional Native grandmother and her response is, “Oh, my friends will be so jealous!” That’s what we hope people experience: that shift.

    EITELJORG: How does "Two Spirits" open hearts and minds?

    LYDIA: It’s one thing to learn that many tribes have multiple genders and much more connective to see the story of one particular life and to feel empathy and understanding for someone like Fred while seeing him through the eyes of his mother. Any time we can get out of our own heads and into someone else’s experience, our own understanding expands. Perhaps that’s why "Two Spirits" was the highest-rated film of the 2010-2011 season, and received the Audience Award from PBS-Independent Lens. The film introduces viewers to the amazing ways traditional Navajo people express gender, takes them into the world of contemporary world of Two-Spirit people, and shows how this richer view of gender has always been with us and can be reclaimed.

    EITELJORG: What is the lasting message this film leaves for its viewers?

    GREG:
    Between tradition and controversy, sex and spirit, and freedom and fear, lives the truth—the bravest choice you can make is to be yourself.

    EITELJORG: Is there an opportunity for people to get involved in getting the message out?
     
     
    LYDIA: We’re working to place the film in more colleges, universities, high schools, and libraries and are seeking funding from individual philanthropists and foundations to make that possible. Any help is welcome! Imagine a world that isn’t simply divided into male and female, where it’s safe for people to be who they are. Please join us to make the film more widely available by making a contribution and by sharing it in person, online, and in every way you can. 

    About Out West
    Out West was conceived by author and independent curator Gregory Hinton. Hinton created the program series to illuminate positive contributions of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community to the history and culture of the American West. 

    Support LGBT Programming at the Eiteljorg
    Donate to  

    Help support the screening and discussion of the powerful film, TWO SPIRITS, an acclaimed PBS Independent Lens documentary that tells the story of the brief life and tragic murder of transgender Navajo teen, Fred Martinez. The film, including a panel discussion, will take place at 12:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 28.

    To donate to this project, click Power2Give.  Chase Bank will contribute one dollar for every dollar donated. To learn more about the film visit the website: twospirits.org.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 
    SEP. 28 OUT WEST SCHEDULE
     

    12:30 p.m.                Welcome by Gregory Hinton, Out West founder
    12:45 p.m.                "Two Spirits" film screening
    1:45 – 3:30 p.m.       Panel discussion
    3:30 p.m.                  DVD/book signing Eiteljorg Museum Store

    PANEL
     
    Moderator: Jodi A. Byrd, Ph.D. (Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma), associate professor of American Indian Studies and English, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
     
    Lydia Nibley, director, "Two Spirits"
     

    Brian Joseph Gilley, Ph.D.
    , associate professor of anthropology and director of the First Nations Educational and Cultural Center, Indiana University Bloomington; author of Becoming Two-Spirit

    Wesley K. Thomas, Ph.D., chair/professor, School of Diné Studies, Education & Leadership, Navajo Technical College (Crownpoint, NM)
     
    Photo credits:
    - "Two Spirits" poster from film festivals
    - Navajo same sex couple, photographer Bosque Redondo 1866, Museum of New Mexico
    - Two-Spirit dancers prepare
    - Lydia Nibley's headshot
    - Photographs were given to us by Lydia Nibley

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  • Eiteljorg Insider| 5 Questions with Summer Peters

    by Jaq Nigg, Eiteljorg festivals and markets manager | Jul 11, 2013

    We caught up with bead worker Summer Peters who won Best of Show at the Eiteljorg Indian Market with her beadwork portrait Gentleman Jim. A single mom and full time artist, she is a tribal member of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe in Michigan, but lives in Phoenix, AZ. It was her first time coming to the Eiteljorg market and she blew everyone away with her creativity and talent.


    Summer Peters (Saginaw Chippewa), Gentleman Jim, Best of Show Winner at the 2013 Eiteljorg Indian Market and Festival

     
    1. What inspires you?
    What inspires me is fashion, places I've been to, experiences I've had, nature, people watching, and a desire to learn more. It doesn't take much. I see beauty in almost everything. I love talking about art with other artists. I like watching things being built.

     2. If you could steal any piece of art in the world to have in your home, what would it be?
    I'd have to bypass the obvious choices of the Mona Lisa or some Picasso painting, it would definitely be, Spirit of the Forest by Odilon Redon. I learned about him in one of my art history courses.

     3. If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?
    I would most definitely be an ironworker in the NYC skyline or some sort of home builder/architect/interior designer. I have a strong academic background in the technical side of building things.

     4. What is your favorite tool? 
    My favorite tool is my needle nose plier. It makes everything perfect! I'm very very very much a perfectionist about my work, even though they say nothing in the world is perfect. If there's an extra bead on my string and I've already attached it to the canvas, I snap it off.

     5. What do you listen to while you work?
    I usually turn on the TV and find a show that I can listen to. I don't really listen to music while I work. Music has a strong attachment to memories in my life, good and bad, so I don't listen to it. I don't like sad feelings seeping into my work.  One time, though, I turned on classical music and I was beading like a mad woman! I need to do that again. 

     About Gentleman Jim:
    Gentleman Jim
    is beadwork portrait of Jim Thorpe (Sac and Fox). The piece was created to bring attention to Native American people who have made great accomplishments in mainstream society.

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  • Recapping the 2013 Eiteljorg Indian Market & Festival

    by By Jaq Nigg, festivals and markets manager | Jun 28, 2013

    Every June, the Eiteljorg brings gifted Native American artists and performers together with visitors for a celebration of Native American cultures. It’s a culmination of yearlong efforts as well as a “family reunion” for artists, museum staff and visitors. There’s always so much to see and do. Here are a few of the things I saw and did.

    Indian Market and Festival weekend started early Friday morning with artists arriving for judging and setting up in Military Park.




    Friday evening’s Preview Party is the official kick off of the weekend. Many of the artists were there and it was a wonderful and relaxed opportunity to spend time with them before the business of the weekend took over. The Best of Show Exhibit gave a chance to see all the prize winning artwork in one place, including Best of Show, Harrison Eiteljorg Purchase Award and the Helen Cox Kersting Award. Complete list of prize winners.
     

    Beadwork portrait, Gentleman Jim by Summer Peters (Saginaw Ojibwe Tribe of Michigan) won Best of Show. It was Summer’s first time at the Eiteljorg Indian Market!



    Potters, Pahponee (Kickapoo/Potawatomi) and Dominique Toya (Jemez Pueblo), admire the Harrison Eiteljorg Purchase Award winner, Love Gun, by Susan Folwell (Santa Clara Pueblo)

    Early Saturday morning, collectors and visitors lined up along the lovely canal path and West Street. Artists hurried to get to their booths and the sun warmed the day – but not too warm! A pleasant breeze and the shade trees kept things comfortable. As artists opened their booths and greeted each other, museum staff whizzed around on golf carts doing final tasks. Volunteers provided coffee, fruit, bagels and ice to the artists. The performers finished their sound checks. The food vendors started cooking and the media came for interviews. We were ready to open!

     


    Main admissions at 10am.


    I talked on camera to WTHR (NBC-Indianapolis) before Shelley Morningsong played her flute.

    The first stop for many visitors was the artist tents. Some artists sell out so it’s important to visit favorites early. Other popular destinations included the Dogbane Family Activity Area where kids of all ages created their own artwork to take home; the Delaware encampment and, of course, the performance tent.


    Rumors spread that artists seemed to be selling well: potter Jody Naranjo (Santa Clara Pueblo) only had two small pots left by Noon; Peter Boome (Upper Skagit) sold a bentwood box; sculptor Mark Fischer (Oneida) barely had anything left by the end of the weekend; jewelers Sharon and Richard Abeyta’s (Santo Domingo Pueblo) tables were always crowded; jeweler Jolene Bird (Santo Domingo Pueblo) charmed the Eiteljorg store folks with her sleek and funky inlay jewelry.

    Shoppers crowd the artist tents.

    Visitors discovered delicate jewelry, colorful kachina carvings, musical instruments, large sculptures and more. The food vendors kept busy throughout the day, selling Indian tacos, papusas, ice cream and, our favorites to cool down in the afternoon, lavender lemonade and Melmosas.


    The weekend was picture perfect – until about 3:30 pm on Sunday when ominous clouds in the West threatened and we made the tough decision to close the market early for the safety of visitors, artists, volunteers and staff.

    As artists packed up their artwork, they hugged lingering visitors goodbye; wishing them a great year until they return next June to see them again.

     If you missed this year’s Indian Market and Festival, make sure to mark your calendar for next year’s festival: June 21-22, 2014.

    Please share your own stories about the 2013 Indian Market and Festival. And, if you haven’t had a chance to fill out our visitor survey, please do.

     
    Festivals and markets manager, Jaq Nigg wants to say a big THANK YOU to all of the artists who come from so far and who are so wonderful; to all of the volunteers who work so hard and keep smiling; to all of our vendors who are the best at what they do and have my back when I forget something; and to the rest of the Eiteljorg staff who make being the Indian Market grand poobah the best job in the entire museum. A special tip of the cap to Erinn Wold and Lisa Watt who are crazy good at being my team.


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