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Kalle Benallie
ICT

The first Native American Two Spirit powwow in South Dakota is happening in Sioux Falls this week. It’s a string of LGBTQ+ events that Monique “Muffie” Mousseau and her wife Felipa De Leon didn’t think would happen 20 years ago.

“We’re pretty honored and we’re really excited, and to bring awareness to acceptance and integration throughout the entire state,” Mousseau said. “Times have changed and we cannot continue the hate and the shame because it’s not healthy.”

The Oglala Lakota citizens founded Uniting Resilience, a non-profit organization that spreads awareness and education about Native Two-Spirit LGBTQ, in October 2020.

It is “the first and only two spirit (registered) non-profit in the state of South Dakota,” De Leon said.

Their organization, Sioux Falls Pride, the Transformation Project, the Multi-Cultural Center of Sioux Falls and Two Spirit Nation are partnering with the South Dakota Urban Indian Health for Thursday’s Two Spirit Wacipi.

Mousseau and De Leon are emceeing, for the first time, the powwow.

“We love June. I wish it could be 365 days of celebration. I look forward to when we don’t just have one month of celebrating,” Mousseau said.

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They plan to attend all of the Pride festivals in South Dakota and have been traveling to more like the Two Spirit/ Indigiqueer Pop Up Powwow in Bentonville, Arkansas.

The couple’s advocacy began in 2019 when they discovered the Oglala Sioux tribe did not recognize same-sex marriage. Their efforts resulted in the successful passing for marriage equality and a hate crime law to include gender identity, sexual orientation or disability.

In November 2020, Mousseau’s cousin Alicia Mousseau was believed to be the first openly LGBTQ candidate elected to serve on the tribe's executive council. 

Related:
The Oglala Sioux Tribe passes hate crime law protecting its LGBTQ citizens
Oglala Sioux Tribe considers passing hate crime law
2022 IndigiQueer Pride events

Through Uniting Resilience they hope to continue to pass anti-hate laws for tribes in South Dakota and for the state to have a similar law.

“We’re not doing this for fame or any fortune. We’re doing this because I think we had to go through what we went through to do exactly what we’re doing now,” Mousseau said.

They began dating in 2005 and soon began living together. That year Mousseau, a tribal police officer, was fired from her job and the f-slur was written on their car and house.

She later returned upon the request of a new police chief. Leadership changed again where Mousseau witnessed the same discrimination.

“We’re kicking in those doors now and we’re sitting down at the table,” she said regarding homophobia and racism.

Last year they went to the first Two Spirit Pride held on the Pine Ridge Reservation. It was an emotional experience for both of them. 

“It was overwhelming, I actually cried when I got there. I think that was all that forgiveness and that hate that was put on us — to actually know we can go back to our tribe in freedom,” Mousseau said. 

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