Two-spirit celebrations align with the balance of Spring Equinox

Monday, March 18th, 2024 10:36am


Image Caption

Lane Bonertz is the team lead of the Two-Spirit Program with the Community-Based Research Centre.


“Accessing healthcare has not always felt safe for Indigenous people, and the emphasis on physical health alone can feel cold and isolating.” — Lane Bonertz
By Odette Auger
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Two-Spirit Celebration and Indigenous LGBTQQIA+ Awareness Day is March 19. The celebration is aligned with the Spring Equinox when there is a balance between night and day.

The celebration is an initiative of the Community-Based Research Centre (CBRC). This year, the event is growing beyond Vancouver with celebrations planned for Edmonton, Saskatoon, Toronto, and Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

CBRC is a non-profit charitable organization that promotes the health of people of diverse sexualities and genders through research, networking, knowledge exchanges and leadership development.

The theme for Two-Spirit Day this year is “Bringing sexuality back into our Medicine Wheel.”

The Two-Spirit Team at CBRC has been exploring what this means through the Medicine Bundle Program, which provides sexual health supplies and Indigenous medicines to thousands of Indigenous two-spirited people.

Lane Bonertz is Blackfoot of the Piikani Nation. He’s the team lead of the Two-Spirit Program at CBRC, which “is part of a resurgence of two-spirit people across Turtle Island,” he said.

Bonertz’s role focuses on education and resource development, creating accessible tools and opportunities to learn about sexual health in ways that centre Indigenous identities, cultures and realities.

Sexual health is a part of our physical health, Bonertz explained. They are not separate from one another.

What does that mean within the broader understanding of the Medicine Wheel?

“Knowing our bodies, communicating our needs, and being aware of what’s available to protect and care for our sexual health is part of maintaining that balance we all strive for,” he said.

One of the Two-Spirit Program’s current campaigns is to help move sacredness back into sex with the aim of reducing stigma around sexuality, HIV and sexual health.

“Pleasure, relationships, consent, choice, all of these things contribute to the emotional, mental, and spiritual. It’s all connected,” said Bonertz.

He said the impact of colonization and Christianity has limited dialogue around these topics within Indigenous communities, preventing the sharing of information that could improve uptake of testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, treatment, and prevention.

“Our intention is to start the conversation many are nervous to have in the hopes of improving the health of our Nations and communities.”

The Two-Spirit Day event was born from the guidance of Elders, Bonertz said.

“We received kind, yet firm, encouragement from many of the Elders and community members we’re in relation with to advocate for Two-Spirit Celebration and Awareness Day and the recognition of two-spirit people,” he said.

The truth within differences

Two-spirit is a distinction, said Bonertz. “A way of expressing that, as Indigenous people, we have had our own understandings of gender and sexuality long before any influence or movement.”

It’s also a gathering term. It can refer to sexual orientation, gender identity, neither, or both, he explained.

“It is the recognition of the multitude of identities, teachings, and ways of living that are true to us, our ancestors, and cultures as Indigenous people since time immemorial.”

“Two-spirit people held very important—often sacred—roles serving their communities.”

Bonertz said two-spirit people were respected for their abilities to see multiple perspectives, assume the responsibilities of bodies unlike their own, mediate conflict, and more.

“Being able to connect over the truth within differences of who we are as two-spirit people is a return to culture and a way of healing this part of who we are that colonialism tried to erase.”

Medicine bundles
Medicine bundles from the Community-Based Research Centre can be ordered on the website link above.


The CBRC website explains the medicine bundle concept and how it is applied to their sexual health kits. Medicine bundle contents hold personal significance. Each is sacred to the carrier.

 “It contains items that support you in your personal journey and development,” the CBRC website reads.

The CBRC medicine bundle includes sage, sweetgrass, tobacco, cedar, and Labrador tea. Weaving in western medicine, the bundle also includes an HIV self-test kit and sexual health supplies and information.

“The purpose of this bundle is to bring the sacredness back into sex and give you access to a holistic approach to your sexual health needs,” the website says. (See Medicine Bundle Program link above to order.)

“It was important to hold our traditional ways of healing and care as equally beneficial in responding to the totality of our needs,” said Bonertz.

“Accessing healthcare has not always felt safe for Indigenous people, and the emphasis on physical health alone can feel cold and isolating. We are often only addressing the symptoms and not the other external factors that cause those symptoms to begin with.”

CBRC creates resources that include traditional medicines that nurture the mental, emotional, and spiritual parts of our overall wellbeing, Bonertz said.

“The types of sex people have are vast and varied,” as are the teachings and uses of traditional medicines across Turtle Island, he explained.

Valued and affirmed

“Joining the Two-Spirit Program was the first time my Indigeneity, my sexuality, my learned and lived experience were valued and affirmed,” said Bonertz.

As he grew to understand and define who he was, the need to give back grew.

“I knew that I wanted to dedicate my efforts to improving the lives of the 2SLGBTQ+ community,” Bonertz said.

“I understand two-spirit from the outside in; what role do I fulfill in my community and what responsibilities do I have to the collective? Who am I to my mother, my family, my friends? I am a caregiver, an educator, and someone who strives for balance and tries to live my life in a very gentle way,” he said. Bonertz set a path by asking himself, “In what ways are my differences valued, uplifted, and positively contribute to the lives of those around me?”

“Two-spirit encapsulates so much more than how I see myself or who I may be attracted to. It speaks to the unique place in which myself and many two-spirit people find themselves in relation to others.”

Welcoming two-spirit people back into our circles

Windspeaker asked Bonertz about two-spirit dancers sometimes being excluded from ceremonial spaces and some powwows.

"The ongoing exclusion,” explained Bonertz, has left many “feeling removed or isolated from their Nations or communities."

“Loving and welcoming two-spirit people back into our circles is a part of undoing the impact of colonialism as we become closer to the lives of our ancestors,” he said.

“If we encourage and give two-spirit people the freedom to be who they are meant to be, they will naturally grow into the roles they were born to fulfill. As a group, we become whole.”

Bonertz has seen attitudes changing in his home community. He has “witnessed two-spirit people dancing in the regalia and in styles that speak to their spirit, not the body they were born into.”

“These moments of celebration are a homecoming. It’s where we find one another so we will never feel alone again.”

He encourages people to “see the 2SLGBTQQIA+ folks in their life with warmth, acceptance, and a willingness to let them discover and determine who they are. I have hope that things are getting better, but we still have a long way to go.”

Until then, Two-Spirit Celebration and Awareness Day, as well as powwows and ceremonies led by two-spirit people, welcome all “in the same way we hope to be welcomed back into spaces where we may have felt we don’t belong,” said Bonertz.

Marking the beginning of Spring, a season of renewal and rejuvenation, with this celebration “really speaks to the power two-spirit people have in evoking positive change within their communities.”

Two Spirit Celebration Day events:

Vancouver: March 19 at 1138 Davie Street (The Junction), starting at 1 p.m. Opening Ceremony with Coast Salish Elders and Knowledge Keepers.

Edmonton:  March 19 CHEW Project OUTpost at 7103 105 Street NW. Doors open at 4 p.m. Opening prayer, guest speakers, flag raising, performances, snacks and refreshments provided.

Toronto: March 19 at 2126 Danforth Ave from 12 noon to 4 p.m. for a community day filled with food, drumming, bingo, laughter and medicine.

Thursday March 21 with 2-Spirited People of the First Nations. Celebration at Evergreen Brickworks 550 Bayview Ave from noon to 4 p.m. Starting with a sacred fire with lunch to follow. Pipe ceremony (2 p.m.) and a feasting ceremony for sacred items (3 p.m.). Register:

Saskatoon: March 19 at Chokecherry Studios, 201 Ave B North at 9 a.m. Pipe Ceremony with 2 Spirit Alliance of Saskatchewan, 2 Spirits in Motion Society, and Jay Dreamers.

March 20: Flag Raising at City Hall, 222 3rd Ave North at 10 a.m. Community Feast and Giveaway at Chokecherry Studios, 201 Ave B North A, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Sault Ste.Marie/Baawaating: Monday March 20, 3:30 p.m. Flag Raising Ceremony and Proclamation (Sault Ste. Marie Civic Centre)

Tuesday March 21 at 9 a.m. Half Day 2Spirit & Indigenous-LGBTQ+ Workshop (Thunderbird Room, Rankin Arena)

Friday March 24, 8 p.m. PRIDE Night and 2Spirit Drag Show (The Moose Lodge)

Event Link:

Sioux Lookout: March 18 at 10:45 a.m. Flag Raising in Lac Seul First Nation at the bridge to the community. For more information and registration for the week’s events: Ever Sick! Indigenous Performing Arts & Entertainment .

March 19 at 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. 2Spirit Diversity in the Workplace: Workshop. Frenchman's Head. Choose Life Complex, Lac Seul.

March 23, 6 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Dinner & Drag Show, 7:15 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Show

Event Address: Frenchman's Head. Choose Life Complex, Lac Seul.

Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.