Qwo-Li Driskill, “Stolen From Our Bodies: First Nations Two-Spirits/Queers and the Journey to a Sovereign Erotic”

Qwo-Li Driskill, a Cherokee Two-Spirit person, says that healing sexualities as First Nations people is braided with the legacy of historical trauma and the ongoing process of decolonization.

As discussed in the lesson, Driskill emphasizes the impacts that sexual colonization has had on Indigenous people, two-spirit people in particular. What a focus on sexual colonization brings to the fore is that Indigenous people were not only materially dispossessed from the land, and culturally dispossessed from their ways of life and languages, but also endured an erotic dispossession. The word dispossession means to be torn from, alienated from, or uprooted. Driskill says:

I have not only been removed from my homelands, I have also been removed from my erotic self and continue to journey back to my first homeland: the body.

Qwo-Li Driskill, “Stolen From Our Bodies: First Nations Two-Spirits/Queers and the Journey to a Sovereign Erotic,” in Studies in American Indian Literatures 16, no. 2 (2004): 53.

As you read:

  • Consider the significance of the song at the beginning of Driskill’s essay. Which parts of history does the song address?
  • Define the terms: colonized sexuality and sovereign erotic.
  • Consider the importance of songs and poems as modes of expression within an abusive settler culture.

Find the Driskill reading in the supplementary resources block on eClass.

Watch the Short Frameline documentary, “Two-Spirit People”, for an extended discussion about the meaning and history of the term two-spirit. 

Two Spirit People
View Time: 22:51 Minutes
Video source

As discussed in the documentary, the term two-Spirit an intertribal term to be used in English as a way to communicate numerous tribal traditions and social categories of gender outside dominant European binaries (Driskill, 72). The term resists colonial definition and expresses Indigenous sexual and gender identities as sovereign from white LGBT movements. What this indicated is that the inclusion of “2S” in the LGBTQIA2S umbrella is complicated. On the one hand, inclusion under an umbrella risks erasure of the cultural and historical specificities of two-spirit identity into Western sexual identity frameworks. On the other hand, acknowledgment of one’s existence is requested and appreciated in some cases. The added layer of complication is, of course, the erasure of historical and ongoing colonization in many queer movements and organizations.

As you watch:

  • Consider how the documentary defines two-spirit identities.
  • Think about the ways in which LGBTQIA organizations need to engaging meaningfully with the implications of colonization in the present when they choose to tag on ‘2S’ to the acronym.

Melissa K. Nelson, “Getting Dirty: The Eco-Eroticism of Women in Indigenous Oral Literatures”

Melissa Nelson is a Native ecologist interested in the synergy among ecology, sex, and Native cultures. Nelson opens this piece by recounting childhood memories; she vividly remembers tasting the earth, feeling the smooth curves on driftwood, being wooed by the smell of buckeye blossoms, being aroused by the splash of ocean waves on granite, and the power of a waterfall (229-230). These opening “eco erotic moments” give us a keen sense of what the rest of the piece is about – the relationship between nature and sexuality.

Nelson defines eco-erotics as “a type of meta (after, higher)- sexual or trans (over, beyond)-sexual intimate ecological encounter in which we are momentarily and simultaneously taken outside of ourselves by the beauty or sometimes the horror, of the more-then-human natural-world” (230). Through an eco-erotic lens, one is awakened to their pansexual nature, potentially aroused by anything. These powerful eco-erotic moments:

… can break my heart open, take my breath away, make me shed tears, or force me to listen with the ears of my ancestors. In these moments, I often feel dwarfed, in awe, vulnerable, even shocked. And in the act of sex, I feel these same emotions – these vulnerable feelings combined with a strange sense of authentic, surging power.

Melissa K. Nelson, “Getting Dirty: The Eco-Eroticism of Women in Indigenous Oral Literatures,” in Critically Sovereign: Indigenous Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies, ed. Joanne Barker (2017), 230.

Find the Nelson reading here.