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PHOENIX — This past weekend, the Phoenix Indian Center hosted an annual powwow that welcomes and celebrates its lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and two-spirit (LGBTQ2S) relatives in a movement that has been growing throughout Indian Country.

The 3rd Annual Two-Spirit Powwow celebrated with 60 registered dancers and six drums representing various tribes from all over Indian Country. 

Prior to European colonization, many Indigenous communities acknowledged five genders: male, female, two-spirit males, two-spirit females, and transgendered. Two-spirit is a term generally and exclusively used by American Indian people and communities that define a male or female as having two genders—male and female simultaneously. 

“In many different tribes, many Two-Spirit community members are very important and vital, and because we’re in an urban center, we’re not necessarily around our ancestral homelands,” Phoenix Indian Center’s Chief Executive Officer Jolyana Begay-Kroupa told Native News Online. “In many instances, our teachings become lost over time. This powwow is really about organizing a way to come back together, support and celebrate our brothers and sisters who are in the LGTBQ2S community.”

The Phoenix Indian Center has been organizing the powwow since 2021, when it was held virtually and has remained committed to supporting the LGBTQ2S community ever since. Founded in 1947, the Phoenix Indian Center is the oldest urban American Indian Center in the United States. 

Last weekend’s Two-Spirit Powwow was co-organized by Mesa Community College and the South Mountain Community College and drew the largest crowd the event has seen so far. The powwow included more than two dozen art vendors, food vendors, and booths for people to sign up for information from the Phoenix Indian Center, Native Health, or how to become allies for the LGBTQ2s community. 

“This was a great turnout today, lots of smiling faces,” Begay-Kroupa said of the powwow. 

Monique “Muffie” Mousseau drove down from Rapid City, S.D., to attend the powwow to support both her partner, Felipa De Leon, as one of the head dancers and the Phoenix Indian Center. 

“They supported us when Felipa and I were having a difficult time,” Mousseau said in an interview with Native News Online

Mousseau and De Leon were married with seven other couples at the National Gay Marriage Celebration in 2015 at the Mount Rushmore National Monument in the Black Hills of South Dakota. When the couple discovered same-sex remained illegal on the Pine Ridge Reservation where they grew up, they petitioned for a change in the reservations law — which they achieved in 2019 when the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council passed a same-sex marriage ordinance in a 12–3 vote. 

Mousseau and De Leon went on to start Uniting Resilience, an organization that advocates for other Indigenous communities to establish laws of protection and rights for marriage equality. 

They help organize an annual two-spirit powwow in Sioux Falls. 

Tony Duncan, award-winning hoop dancer and Native American flute player, attended the event with his family to support his brother, who was one of the head dancers of the powwow. 

“We came as a family to support my brother, Kyle,” Tony Duncan told Native News Online. “It’s great to see everyone here.” 

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About The Author
Author: Darren ThompsonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Darren Thompson (Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe) is a staff reporter for Native News Online who is based in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. Thompson has reported on political unrest, tribal sovereignty, and Indigenous issues for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Indian Country Today, Native News Online, Powwows.com and Unicorn Riot. He has contributed to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Voice of America on various Indigenous issues in international conversation. He has a bachelor’s degree in Criminology & Law Studies from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.