Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

English (Literature)

Department or School/College

Department of English

Committee Chair

Kathleen Kane

Commitee Members

David Moore, Kathryn Shanley


Almanac of the Dead, Alternative Genders, Indigenous Queer Theory, James Welch, Leslie Marmon Silko, Queer Native Americans, The Heartsong of Charging Elk, Theo Cecil DeCelles, Two-Spirit Identity


University of Montana


Indigenous American sexual minorities and alternatively gendered voices went underground due to Eurowestern sexual colonization from the time of the conquistador invasions of the early 16th century to the political campaigns of cultural homogenization of the mid-20th century. A cultural distortion still exists in the postcolonial era. In the past many North American indigenous nations had culturally specific sexualities and genders that reflected the cultural heterogeneity of the Americas. Today cultural assimilation negatively affects queer Native Americans, and culturally imported attitudes of homophobia are reflected in Native American literature. An interdisciplinary approach must be used to study the cultural distortion that affects all levels of Native American societies including sexuality and gender, by combining anthropology, social studies, forms of oral and textual literature, and history, a discourse between competing Native American voices is revealed. The results indicate that some Native American authors exhibit traditional and/or neo-traditional views versus assimilated views about Native American queer and two-spirit people, traditional means the specific cultural constructs of the nation that produced them, and assimilated means cultural absorption by another and does not mean acculturation. Assimilated views of homosexuality such as James Welch’s The Heartsong of Charging Elk and Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead, readily canonized by the literary establishment, are still influenced by the patriarchy. Queer voices that attempt to rediscover Native American’s past acceptance of multiple genders and sexual diversity, neo-traditionalists like Michael Red Earth and Anne Waters, have remained largely unknown by mainstream America, reflecting the invisibility of Native American sexual minorities and two-spirit voices in contemporary American life. The principal conclusion is that a culture clash exists between assimilated and traditional and/or neo-traditional views about the re-acceptance of alternative genders, and the acceptance of culturally imported queer identities. Even so, Native American sexual minorities and two-spirit people are telling their stories as an act of decolonization and reasserting their cultural power.



© Copyright 2013 Theodore Cecil DeCelles