The University of Winnipeg (U of W) library houses a collection of recent historical artifacts that shed light on a movement that advocates for the rights of Two-Spirit individuals. Dancing To Eagle Spirit Society describes a Two-Spirit individual as a person who carries the spirits of both male and female identities.
Brett Lougheed, the university archivist and digital curator at the U of W, says that Two-Spirit identification is often equated to LGBTQ+ structures of identity, but it has a spiritual connotation as well.
The Two-Spirit collection was originally donated to the U of W archives by Albert McLeod, Lougheed says.
“McLeod is a Two-Spirit advocate in the city but also has an international reputation as a cofounder of Two-Spirited People of Manitoba,” he says.
“The materials (in the collection) are records documenting Two-Spirit people in Manitoba and in the Two-Spirit movement,” Lougheed says. “This consists of textual records like newsletters and correspondence. There is a photograph collection which illustrates Two-Spirit people at gatherings, conferences and other events within the Two-Spirit community.”
The collection also includes art, T-shirts and other non-traditional forms of archived media, Lougheed says.
Lougheed notes the collection was initially donated in 2013 but has been periodically added to over the years.
“The renaissance of Two-Spirit is relatively new,” Lougheed says. “We have some records documenting . . . the first Indigenous LGBTQ+ gathering in Minneapolis in 1988.”
Lougheed says the oldest records date back as far as the late 1970s and ’80s.
“These are all contemporary records (belonging to) Albert McLeod. That’s when he started becoming active as a Two-Spirit advocate and in the LGBTQ+ community,” he says.
Coral Baisch, a history master’s student, interned over the summer of this year as an archival assistant.
“My focus was to work with the Two-Spirit collection and help lay the groundwork to grow the collection and research ways in which we could make sure that the collection was led by Two-Spirit people in the community,” she says.
Both Baisch and Lougheed believe that the Two-Spirit collection is an important piece of history for Indigenous communities and LGBTQ+ communities alike.
“Records created by Two-Spirit people are largely absent from both LGBTQ+ and Indigenous archival collections,” Baisch says.
“I hope that the Two-Spirit collection here at the UW archives and our efforts to ensure that it is led by Two-Spirit people encourage other archives to reach out to their local Two-Spirit communities and let them know that their stories and histories are valued, and that the archives can be a trusted steward for those records,” Baisch says.
Baisch says the collection, though small, has a lot of potential.
“It helps to highlight a historically ignored group of people,” she says. “It is important to do it in a respectful way that leaves the collection in the hands of those it represents.
Baisch and Lougheed indicate that the U of W has developed a Two-Spirit archives advisory committee that will provide guidance on how the collection can be further developed to serve students at the university and to meet the needs of the Two-Spirit community as well.
More information on the Two-Spirit collection can be found at main.lib.umanitoba.ca/two-spirited-collection.