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New version of Tribal Equity Toolkit offers guidance for Two Spirit justice in Indian Country

December 10, 2013

As part of their ongoing effort to confront sexuality bias in tribal communities, groups including Basic Rights Oregon, The Pride Foundation, and Lewis & Clark’s Indigenous Ways of Knowing Program (IWOK) have collaborated with tribal leaders to release an updated version of the Tribal Equity Toolkit. The document offers tribal lawmakers examples of policies that would better include and represent LGBT or “Two Spirit” people. “Two Spirit,” tribal leaders write in the toolkit’s forward, “indicates an ability to see the world from both male and female perspectives and to bridge the world of male and female.” The ten chapters in version 2.0 outline sample legislation that would improve the lives of Two Spirit people in seven policy areas, including employment, housing, and education.

Tribal leaders are reworking their laws and customs to protect LGBT and Two Spirit people from bias and intimidation. According to the toolkit, “over 50 percent of Native American gay or lesbian students experience physical violence at school because of their sexual orientation,” and “56 percent of Native Transgender and nonconforming respondents in a national transgender survey had attempted suicide.”

Though the toolkit gives leaders a general framework, each tribe is still working to craft policies suited to its unique culture and legal structure. The Tribal Equity Toolkit 2.0 augments the first version by addressing new policy issues, including gender affirming health care. As part of IWOK, Project Director Se-Ah-Dom Edmo led a 2013 Tribal Community Scan, aiming to uncover tribes’ readiness to act on the toolkit. The program’s staff interviewed 31 tribal leaders and transcribed over 40 hours of interviews. They recorded personal reflections, cultural narratives, and hopes for achieving more just treatment for Two Spirit people in their communities. Leaders noted some challenges, but also described a willingness to work with new policies.

“I feel that the struggle for LGBT rights is interlocked and interwoven with tribal rights and tribal sovereignty,” said one of the scan’s respondents. “I think all that goes hand in hand.”

Learn more about the Tribal Equity Toolkit.

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