Fighting for Justice for the Two Spirit Indigenous Community in Pine Ridge

“When Monique Mousseau was in the fourth grade she got expelled from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic school on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota. Her classmates didn’t like the beaded moccasins her grandmother made for her and the two braids she sported, which were held together by hand-beaded hair ties.” S. R. Clahchischiligi, The Guardian, April 14, 2021

Monique ‘Muffie’ Mousseau and her wife Felipa De Leon in their kitchen. Photo- M. Wosinska The Guardian

Excerpt: By Sunnie R Clahchischiligi, The Guardian, April 14, 2021

‘I fought back,’ she says. Little did she know that would be the start of a long journey of fighting for justice for the Two Spirit Indigenous community, a term used to identify the LGBTQ community throughout Indian Country.

Mousseau, 52, and her wife, Felipa De Leon, 51, also from the Pine Ridge Indian reservation, have dedicated their lives to fighting for equal rights for Two Spirit Indigenous peoples locally and nationally…Candi Brings Plenty is another vocal advocate of the Two-Spirit community. She spent February pushing for South Dakota’s hate crime protection bill to include Native American Two Spirit people, with the Native American nation recognizing them as a culturally and spiritually distinct gender. The bill was passed with those protections made.

Two friends rest their heads against one another on a cold October evening at a basketball course. Photo- M. Wosinska

Although Two Spirit people once existed harmoniously on the Pine Ridge reservation, colonizers divided them, she says. ‘Our sacred circles were broke, and the infrastructure in our families,’says Brings Plenty.

Nicole Big Crow, left, stands with her girlfriend, Ashley Colhoff, on a field on the reservation. Photo- M. Wosinska

’The Two-Spirit people have always held their roles. Two-Spirit people, just like our Indigenous land, belong to our ancestors,’ she says.

The entrance to a part of the cemetery of Wounded Knee. Photo- M. Wosinska

Most of what the community knows about Two Spirit people is from oral stories. Mosseau feels fortunate to have grown upin a traditional home that valued ceremony, including ceremonies honoring transsexual people who often prepared the food for ceremonies and dressed in women’s attire.”

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