2SLGBTQ+ Event: An Elder’s Two-Spirit Journey

For the Thunder Bay-based Ojibwe–Cree Elder, Ma-Nee Chacaby, the key lesson she wants youth and adults to embrace from her own Two-Spirit journey is learning how to become comfortable with yourself.

In order to support our children and youth to achieve that, Chacaby, a seasoned foster parent to more than 20 youth over several decades, stressed that we need to hear what the youth have to teach us.

Ma-Nee Chacaby, Ojibwe–Cree Elder

“Listening to our youth is important,” she said on Thursday to more than 30 staff at a virtual event, “An Elder’s Two-Spirit Journey,” presented by the 2SLGBTQ+ committee.

“Watch what you say to the kids; listen to what they need – write letters, play games to get to know them. Use games and storytelling as a means to get to know the children. This allows the children to open up in a way that is comfortable for them.”

She added: “Let them tell what they want to tell you; don’t ask them what life at home was like – they could be carrying stuff with them that might be hard to process.”

Chacaby, a writer, artist and activist, shared about her journey from a youth in her community learning about her indigenous culture and being a two-spirited person from her grandmother to her present life mentoring and supporting youth in the community of Thunder Bay as an Elder where her goal is to listen to the youth.

At 20, Chacaby moved to Thunder Bay with her children to escape an abusive marriage. Over the following decades, she achieved sobriety; trained and worked as an alcoholism counsellor; raised her children and fostered many others; learned to live with visual impairment; and came out as a lesbian. In 2013, Ma-nee Chacaby led the first gay pride parade in Thunder Bay.

Today, Chacaby continues her dedication to youth by mentoring young people, sharing Anishinaabe teachings and stories, and supporting access to ceremony for 2SLGBTQ+ Indigenous peoples.

When asked about advice to foster parents, Ma-Nee said, “Think about whether or not they can come back if they have issues at home down the road, especially if they get attached; be ready and be open with them.”

Illa Meekis, Prevention Support Supervisor and committee member, shared her own connection to 2SLGBTQ+ during her introduction of Chacaby.

“My child would be so happy to hear that a presentation like this with an Elder is taking place today where I am working,” said Meekis.

The event was hosted by the Tikinagan 2SLGBTQ+ committee, which leads in the spirit of Mamow Obiki-ahwashsoowin so our agency strives to be a diverse and inclusive organization that supports equality and is committed to fostering a supportive environment for all. We do not discriminate based on race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religious beliefs, physical or mental disability, age, marital status, source of income, gender identity or gender expression. We are all in this together, equally, to be effective and professional for the communities we serve.

“Much respect to Ma-Nee,” said the Allen Feeney, member of the 2SLGBTQ+ committee. “Her story is one of hardship because she was two-spirited but I believe she made it easier for others who followed.”

This presentation was recorded and will be made available to staff in the near future. To learn more about Ma-Nee Chacaby go to http://ma-nee.art/ or to purchase her book “A Two-Spirit Journey, The Autobiography of a Lesbian Ojibwa-Cree Elder” go to https://uofmpress.ca/books/detail/a-two-spirit-journey.