Focus On: Covering 2 Spirit Communities

Best and wise practices for reporting on 2 Spirit communities and First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities on Turtle Island.

Three Indigenous drummers sit in a circle on orange chairs. They are all playing on a colourful drum and singing.


2 Spirit

2 Spirit is an English-language umbrella term used within some Indigenous communities to describe a person’s gender, sexual, spiritual, and/or cultural identity. Though the term is only now gaining more recognition in the mainstream media, 2 Spirit folks have existed for time immemorial—colonialism created the gender binary.


There are many understandings of the term 2 Spirit, so it’s best to ask each person what it means to them and default to using their self-determined language on how they identify in your reporting. Many Indigenous communities have a word or words in their ancestral language to describe 2 Spirit identities, and this English term does not resonate with everyone, particularly Inuit communities.


2 Spirit people often serve integral and important roles in their communities, such as knowledge keepers, teachers, adoptive parents, healers, medicine people, ceremonial leaders, and Elders. It’s an identity that was and should be revered and celebrated.

2 Spirit people often serve integral and important roles in their communities, such as knowledge keepers, healers, medicine people, ceremonial leaders, and Elders. It’s an identity that should be revered and celebrated.


As with other trans and gender-diverse folks (terms 2 Spirit individuals may or may not ascribe to themselves), it’s not always appropriate to mention someone’s 2 Spirit identity in a story. Always let self-determination be your guide. Take the lead of the person you are interviewing, especially if the story isn’t explicitly related to gender identity or how they navigate the world as a 2 Spirit individual.


Miigwech, Niawen’ko:wa, Ayhay, Maarsii, Thank you.

Key Terms for Covering 2 Spirit Communities

Reporting Do’s

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    Acknowledge that ongoing colonial violence means someone may be reluctant to share parts of their identity or story—and that is completely understandable and okay.

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    Consider asking a person if there is a word in their ancestral language they’d like you to use to describe their identity, or how they would like to be described.

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    Default to the self-determined direction of 2 Spirit people and communities.

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    Familiarize yourself with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Report and Calls to Action, and be able to speak to which call(s) you can/are advancing through your work.

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    Be mindful that a person is not speaking on behalf of all First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people, and that there are many different views held within Indigenous communities.

Reporting Dont’s

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    Handle or take photos or video of sacred items or ceremonies (e.g. sacred fires) without explicit invitation or permission.

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    Take photos or videos of individuals without explicit invitation or permission and clear communication on how, when, and by whom they will be used.

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    Use the term “Aboriginal.” It has fallen out of favour.

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    Use the term 2 Spirit for a person unless they identify as Indigenous and have identified themselves as such to you.

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    Use the term 2 Spirit for a person unless they identify as Indigenous and have identified themselves as such to you.

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    Assume a 2 Spirit person is trans or queer. 2 Spirit identities and experiences don’t fit into settler paradigms of queerness.

Language and Colonial Violence

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Appreciate that a person may or may not have a way to describe their 2 Spirit identity in their language—because of colonization, many of the words and terms that would have been used have been lost.


Be cautious when asking about this. Linguistic loss is a direct outcome of the cultural annihilation faced by Indigenous communities as a key tool of colonization. 2 Spirit individuals were intentionally targeted by settler violence because they were key leaders and revered and respected members of community life.


Understanding this context is important when interviewing 2 Spirit community members. When appropriate, a question about language could be phrased something like this: “Do you have a connection to how your ancestors would have described being 2 Spirit in your culture and community? Do you want to use those words for this story, because I think it’s important if you do.” Language reclamation is a powerful tool of decolonization.


If a person does have a word or words they’d like to use, include these alongside how they define its meaning.


It is important to also always be sure to use appropriate characters and spelling if so. Be willing to do this research and get it confirmed in advance of making content public. For example, “Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc is calling on the government and the Catholic Church to provide records and resources as the First Nation continues to uncover potential burial sites near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.”

Making Introductions

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Introducing yourself as a journalist is a common courtesy. Introductions take on added importance when reporting on 2 Spirit and Indigenous communities. Explaining who you are and where you come from is a first step in demonstrating respect, positioning yourself in the colonial histories of this place, and working to establish trust and build authentic relationships. Consider sharing:


  • Basic information: Your name, pronouns, the organization you represent
  • Where you’re from: Where you live today, where your family is from (in the present and in past generations), with a recognition of the Indigenous land you benefit from
  • How you are connected to this story: Are you a member of the trans and gender-diverse community? Do you write about this topic often? Why do you want to share a person’s voice? How are you in service to this individual or community through this story? How does your story or approachTruth and Reconciliation Commission Report’s Calls to Action?

Respecting Reciprocity

Reciprocity should be another guiding value in your work alongside 2 Spirit and First Nations, Métis, and Inuit community members.

2 Spirit

Two-Spirit Community Page from LGBTQ2S+ health

Further reading about the origins of the term “2 Spirit” that was proposed by Elder Myra Laramee in 1990.

2 Spirit

2-Spirited People of the 1st Nations

2-Spirited People of the 1st Nations (2-Spirits) is a non-profit social service organization whose membership consists of First Nations, Metís and Inuit 2-Spirit People.

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ODE: Remembered Voices

ODE is a Two-Spirit LGBTQ+ Indigenous group for youth from 16-25 years old within the Greater Toronto Area.

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