Press Release:  Indian Leaders Denounce Navajo Two Spirit Vote

Date:  May 3, 2005
Contact: Randy Burns 650-359-6473
     Gabriel Duncan  510-917-0643
     Native American Cultural Center  415-641-9466

On Friday, April 22nd of 2005, the tribal council of the Navajo Nation unanimously voted to pass the Dine Marriage Act of 2005.  Fortunately, Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. has today vetoed this legislation.

Members and leaders of the Native American Cultural Center of San Francisco, including chairman Andrew Brother Elk, board member Randy Burns (co-founder of the Gay American Indians and contributor to Living With The Spirit); and Gabriel Duncan, young poet and novelist, have issued the following response:

“We are shocked and saddened that the Navajo Tribal Council would attempt to make such an intrusive decision into the personal lives of its members.  To pass such divisive legislation for the defense of ‘tradition,’ ‘values,’ and ‘society’ confuses our own indigenous traditions with newer Christian political rhetoric.  Whatever the reason for this unnecessary legislation, it is misinformed.” 

“As Dine traditionalists have pointed out, Two-Spirit people have always played an important role in the life of the people. To our Dine brothers and sisters, Two-Spirit people are well known in stories, legends, and creation accounts. Two Spirit people have ceremonial roles in dances, songs, feasts, medicine and war activities.  Two Spirit people are part of ancient traditions, and it is traditional to value all living beings on this earth. We are all made in a sacred manner, not just a select few.

“We urge the people of all nations, especially now the Navajo, to hold true to traditional tribal values.  We urge an open and honest discussion with elders and traditionalists about the important role of Two Spirit people in our tribes.  We urge all indigenous people to stand fast, to protect our sacred beliefs and teachings from the Judeo-Christian storm that is slowly sweeping through Indian Country.  We urge tribes to embrace Two Spirit people, not demean and insult them.  We commend the wisdom and courage of Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr.  Our ancient ways are just as important as our ancient songs and dances. Our culture must be preserved.”

Biographical note:

Randy Burns has been an Indian activist, author, speaker, and leader for over 35 years.  He founded Gay American Indians (GAI) in 1975, and a celebration is planned in June for its 30th Anniversary.  GAI was the first multicultural gay organization founded in the United States.  In April 2005 it was announced that Randy Burns will be the Grand Marshall for the 2005 Pride Parade in San Francisco, which attracts over one million viewers.  Mr. Burns is on the board of directors of the Native American Cultural Center and the Native American AIDS Project.