By Bella Abraham
As we recognize it being National Indigenous History and Pride Month, we want to honour someone that represents both narratives.
Albert McLeod is a progressive thinker, visionary, and knowledge keeper who deserves to be recognized as a progressive change maker. He has led the way for the rights of Indigenous 2SLGBTQI+ in North America since 1986 under the name “Two-Spirit”. McLeod has organized a community of indigenous 2SLGBTQI+ to remember and honour non-binary in per-contract First Nations and the Spiritual role they have had within their communities. His work has sparked involvement from organizations throughout the continent.
Status Indian with ancestry from Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation and Métis community of Norway house Manitoba with over 35 years of working in activism, McLeod has committed to education on HIV/AIDS in indigenous communities. This is evident in the range of services he has created over the years, including workshops that he developed and provided to First Nations communities. His work is instrumental in the experience of families living with HIV/AIDS. His leadership has led to the development of services including Nine Circles Community Health Centre, Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network and Ka Ni Kanichihk’s HIV initiatives.
McLeod’s work goes further than just the 2SLGBTQI+ community. He has engaged himself in human-rights activism, language workshops, cultural reclamation and has served as an advisor and activist for Winnipeg’s inner-city community.
From contributing to Two Spirit people and Indigenous people living with HIV/AIDS, his dedication for human rights for all genders is exemplary.
He coined the phrase Two-Spirit in 1990 to prevent hurtful derogatory terms used at people who embody both male and female spirits. Traditionally two-spirited people in Indigenous culture were male, female, and sometimes intersex individuals who partake in both male and female activities. They are held in high regard as they can learn/ teach in both the female and male perspective. Two-Spirited people are outstanding in traditional arts as well; they are healers, making them typically wealthy and highly respected. In many tribes two-spirited persons hold special religious roles such as healers, shamans, and ceremonial leaders. Each nation has a specific term for Two-Spirited people in their own language. Local groups and initiatives include Dancing to Eagle Spirit Society, Two-Spirit Sweat Lodge, Urban Native Youth Association (2 spirit collective), Camp Out, Indian Residential School Survivors Society.
Before colonization Two-Spirit people held great value in their communities. Unfortunately one of the many impacts of colonization on Indigenous communities was an increased level of homophobia and trans-phobia towards those with gender fluidity. The role of Two-Spirit people is now being reclaimed in Indigenous communities. To help aid Indigenous communities there have been many resources, community organizations, and events for Two-Spirit and 2SLGBTQI+ peoples.