Two spirits, one purpose 

Gay and lesbian American Indians look to the past to shape a better future on the reservation

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"We're reclaiming our place in the circle," Barrios says. "Until the two-spirit people are brought back into that circle, that circle is never going to be completely mended."

click to enlarge John Hawk Co-Cke applies makeup to Steven Barrios before a talent show held during last summer’s annual Montana Two Spirit Society gathering. About 60 people attended the four-day event. - BY ANNE MEDLEY
  • by Anne Medley
  • John Hawk Co-Cke applies makeup to Steven Barrios before a talent show held during last summer’s annual Montana Two Spirit Society gathering. About 60 people attended the four-day event.

Blackfeet like Barrios talk proudly of two-spirit history and the stories passed down through the generations. One of the best-publicized examples comes from We-Wha, a cultural ambassador from the Zuni tribe. In 1886, We-Wha met President Grover Cleveland in Washington, D.C., and the 6-foot-tall male passed as a woman during his six-month stay. Newspapers dubbed him the "Indian Princess."

click to enlarge Travis Goldtooth, left, and Mary Lou Van Voorhis chat before a talent show at the annual Montana Two Spirit Society gathering. “One of the things you will find about gay men is their beadwork always matches,” quipped Van Voorhis. - BY ANNE MEDLEY
  • by Anne Medley
  • Travis Goldtooth, left, and Mary Lou Van Voorhis chat before a talent show at the annual Montana Two Spirit Society gathering. “One of the things you will find about gay men is their beadwork always matches,” quipped Van Voorhis.

Journalist George Wharton James discussed We-Wha in a travelogue published in 1920:

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