I want to preface this post by saying that it is so important to continue to listen to Native American voices—whether it be through podcasts, books, or meeting them in person—because they have been silenced for centuries. We need to continue to remind ourselves and others that Native Americans are not figures of the past (as our U.S. school history books might lead us to believe); rather, they are people living in the present just like everyone else. Recognizing this truth, and debunking our subconscious conjectures, is the first step to being able to apply intersectionality throughout our lives.
The podcast “Indigiqueer” is a fantastic example of listening to others to increase intersectionality as it allows us to digest a rigorous dialogue between multiple Indigenous scholars and writers. In this particular episode, All My Relations collaborates with Joshua Whitehead and Billy-Ray Belcourt, two renowned Indigenous scholars and writers. In the podcast, a major theme of conversation surrounds the umbrella term “two-spirit” which is utilized to describe queer, Native American individuals.
Specifically, in Whitehead’s appearance on the podcast, much of the conversation surrounds the general concept of identity and how relationships—with other people, family, friends, the land, or the self—shapes identity. Whitehead is from Manitoba Winnipeg which is the birthing place of two-spirit as in 1990 it hosted the third intertribal gay-lesbian conference. Whitehead finds that the land of Manitoba, specifically the water, holds two-spirit stories as a result of its origins. In this way, Whitehead expresses that their stories are not forgotten; rather, they are forgone. This smart wording choice projects that the reason why intersectionality so often fails to include indigenous individuals is not that their past is forgotten, but rather because their past is chosen to be ignored by non-indigenous individuals. In many U.S. schools, for example, we learned about the colonization of Native American’s land, yet it was breezed over and we never fully recognized it as immoral, violent, and abusive.
Hearing the perspectives of these Indigenous scholars is crucial because it helps listeners to become more intersectional and aware of their implicit biases. Personally, listening to this podcast opened my eyes to the meaning of land and how it holds stories of many historically neglected groups. It also showed me that when we speak about Indigenous groups as “forgotten,” it inadvertently shifts responsibility off of ourselves and blames it on some obscure obstruction of memory. To be more intersectional, we must recognize that these groups were not unintentionally “forgotten,” they were meticulously chosen to be neglected and oppressed by actors such as the U.S. school system, colonizers, and many other people. To truly be intersectional, we must take responsibility for this, listen to their voices, and educate ourselves.