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There are an estimated million Indigenous persons in 90 countries; over nations that speak thousands of languages. Indigenous peoples are as diverse as the processes of colonisation they continue to endure. There are many terms to refer to them — Indian, Native, First Nations, Indigenous, and Tribal peoples — because their experiences relate to a plurality of power relations that vary across colonial experiences. Indigenousness is a political identity.
Mohawk and Cherokee scholars Taiaiake Alfred and Jeff Corntassel define being Indigenous today as an oppositional identity linked to the consciousness of struggle against ongoing forms of dispossession and assimilation by subtler forms of colonialism that spread out of Europe.
This includes sexual colonisation. As colonial powers appropriated Indigenous territories, they tried to control, repress and erase Indigenous sexualities. Colonisation regulated Indigenous gender experiences, supplanting them with Western sexual codes associated with Christian modernity. Scholars exposed the heteronormativity of colonialism Smith , insisted on the value to decolonise queer studies and queer decolonial studies Driskill et al. We contribute a linguistic perspective to this debate.
Indigenous sexualities resist translation as much as they resist erasure. This essay first looks at the vast diversity of Indigenous sexualities across time and borders through language. We then show how Tikuna women are resisting ongoing forms of sexual colonisation in Amazonia, revealing the ways the decolonisation of sexualities is central to Indigenous self-determination. The muxes are people who are biologically male but embody a third gender that is neither male nor female, and who refuse to be translated as transvestite.
Muxes were traditionally seen as a blessing from the gods; today they remain an integral part of society. Muxes cannot be reduced to LGBT categorisation, nor can their experience be exported or replicated elsewhere. They are better approached from queer understandings of sexuality as fluid. Elders say that in ancient, pre-colonial Zapotec language there was no difference when referring to a man or a woman; there were no genders.
In ancient Zapotec, la-ave referred to people, la-ame to animals, and la-ani to inanimate beings. There was no he or she Olita This changed with the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores who introduced the feminine and masculine genders. How are we to translate muxes in languages that are structured around gender? The muxes are just one example of many sexual registries that were lost in colonial translation. Celebrations of non-heteronormative sexualities abounded before the arrival of Europeans in Same-sex relations were celebrated in Moche pottery AD 15— , along the northern Pacific coast of contemporary Peru.
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Moche stirrup spout vessels depict a variety of sexual acts but rarely vaginal penetration, emphasising male genitalia and the movement of fluids between bodies as a form of communication Weismantel In the Andes, the Inkas summoned a queer figure called chuqui chinchay to mediate a political crisis in the late fifteenth century Horswell The chuqui chinchay, a revered figure in Andean culture, was the mountain deity of the jaguars. It was also the patron of dual-gendered peoples, who acted as shamans in Andean ceremonies.
These quariwarmi man-woman cross-dressed to mediate the dualism of Andean cosmology, performing rituals that involved same-sex erotic practices. They embodied a third creative force between the masculine and the feminine in Andean philosophy.
Colonisers had a hard time recognising native sexualities for what they were. Colonial chronicles from the sixteenth century to the eighteenth century described non-binary sexualities, telling of genders they could not comprehend or accept. Will Roscoe , 12—15 gathered colonial documents reporting such accounts.
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Colonial engravings depict them as warriors, hunters, and weavers. In the Mississippi Valley, French colonisers reported a third gender, called ikoueta in Algonkian language, males who adopted gender roles. They went to war, sang in ceremonies, and participated in councils.
gohu-takarabune.com/policy/localizar/qysa-como-localizar-un.php According to colonial reports, they were holy, and nothing could be decided without their advice. In what is now Texas, the Spanish Cabeza de Vaca reported men who dressed and lived like women. Even Russian traders in the sub-arctic region documented gender diversity among Native communities in what is today Alaska. Linguistic registries show that indigenous peoples approached gender as a fluid affair before conquest and assimilation. Alternative genders existed among the Creek, Chickasaw, and Cherokee.
Alternative genders were often associated with spiritual powers. The Potawatomi considered them extraordinary people. For the Lakota, winkte people had auspicious powers and could predict the future. Lakota warriors visited winkte before going to battle to increase their strength. Women engaged in same-sex practices and alternative genders that marked lifelong identities.
Evelyn Blackwood argues that the female cross-gender role in Native-American contexts constituted an opportunity to assume male roles permanently and to marry women. A trader for the American Fur Company that travelled up the Missouri River reported that Woman Chief, a Crow woman who led men into battle, had four wives and was a respected authority who sat in Crow councils Roscoe , This means for instance that gender roles did not restrict sexual partners — individuals had a gender identity but not a corresponding sexual identity.
In other words, sex was not entangled in gender ideology. Blackwood stresses the unimportance of biological sex for gender roles in native worldviews for Western tribes in the US. There was much overlapping of masculine and feminine, and people who were once married and had kids would later in life pursue same-sex relationships. Roscoe , 10 interprets this fluidity as a distinction between reproductive and non-reproductive sex rather than a distinction between heterosexual and same-sex sexuality.
Interpretations vary. What is certain is that Indigenous cultures have long recognised non-heterosexual sexualities and alternative genders, socially respected, integrated, and often revered them. This rich diversity in native sexualities took a hard hit with post colonial expansion, which brutally repressed non-heteronormative practices. Balboa threw the brother of Chief Quaraca and 40 of his companions to the dogs for being dressed as women. In another macabre episode, French colonisers tie a hermaphrodite to a cannon in northern Brazil.
Perhaps European colonisers could not understand native sexualities; they did not have the words to. They could not recognise sexualities differing from their own, and, generally, associated native sexualities with immoral, perverse, and unnatural sexualities. Vanita Seth explains the European difficulty in representing difference as stemming from a broader inability to translate the New World into a familiar language.
Yet the colonial destruction of native sexualities is more than a mere inability to see otherness. Labelling native sexualities as unnatural justified violent repression, and the heterosexualisation of Indians was as much a process of modernisation as of dispossession. The state created bureaucratic structures to civilise the Indians.
In the s, the Directory of Indians established administrative control of intimacy and domesticity that restructured sex and gender in daily life. Heteronormativity made it impossible for any other sexuality, gender, or family organising to exist. The framing of native sexualities as queer or straight impose the colonial state as the axiomatic unit of political collectivity.
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