Photos: Two-spirit people throughout history

Two-spirit is an umbrella idea referencing indigenous peoples of the Americas who also identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, asexual, intersex, or genderqueer, among others. Especially before European colonization of the United States, two-spirit individuals played prominent roles in various tribes. They would have rites of passages for two-spirit individuals to recognize their spirit, often similar to rites of passages for adolescents.

Different tribes have different roles for these individuals, such as appointing them as the tribe’s healer or those who pray to the creator. But due to colonization of indigenous nations, knowledge of two-spirit identities and traditional rituals have decreased.

Below are some images that have documented two-spirit individuals.

Urban Death Project: turning human bodies into compost

Everybody will one day die. But the way people say goodbye to the recently deceased body varies to the country and culture. In the U.S. there are two main options: traditional burial and cremation.

A Seattle architect hopes to change that.

Katrina Spade is the founder of the Urban Death Project in Seattle. Listen to her talk about the process and space for the project:

Watch the video with Katrina:

Special Project: An exploration of death and dirt

Grace Seidel, 55, recently decided to have her remains composted once she dies. Seidel has a passion for death and dirt which reinforces the idea of her body going back to the earth.

“It’s easier for me to just know that when my life s over, it will be over,” says Seidel. “So I can make the best of what I have now, be the kindest person I can be, and hope people feel good when they think about me.”


Listen to Seidel talk more about dirt and death:


Mr. Ono becomes the school counselor he needed

Steven Ono

“If I did have a counselor who was Japanese from Brazil and he was my middle school counselor, I think I would have had more questions answered then I had at the time. And I think that’s what every student wants is to have somebody that can answer those questions.”

Reporter visits Native American powwows

Man dressed in Native regalia walks at a Native American powwow
A young man dressed in Native regalia walks on the side of the dance arena at the eighth annual Eastside Native Education Program Veteran’s Powwow held in Kirkland, Wash., on Oct. 11, 2014. Photo by Imana Gunawan

As part of the reporting process for her story on Native American two-spirit identities, NPR Next Generation Radio reporter Imana Gunawan visited a traditional Native American gathering, commonly known as powwows, held in Kirkland, Wash., on Oct. 11, 2014 in order to learn more about indigenous cultures. In American Indian traditions, “two-spirit” is an umbrella term for Native identities that intersect with LGBTQ identities.