2-Spirited People of the 1st Nations: A Community on a Mission


Top Image: © Jon Elliot

Historically, Two-Spirit referred to ancient teaching—people who were gifted among beings because they carried both male and female spirits. They were honoured and revered, seen as visionaries and healers, and were a source of strength for the People of the First Nations.

Community-led agency 2-Spirited People of the 1st Nations is reclaiming the power and the history behind Two-Spirits and using it to carve a new way forward for Two-Spirited individuals from the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities in the Greater Toronto Area. Led by Keith McCrady, an Ojibway, Cree, and Two-Spirited individual from the Bear Clan, the organization is on a mission to build a robust support system and ensure the rights of Two-Spirited people and Indigenous women, queer and non-binary people across the country.

The 2-Spirited People of the 1st Nations team more than understand the needs of the community they serve—they’re part of it. The team is comprised of Two-Spirited Indigenous people living with HIV/AIDS, 2SLGBTQ+, low-income individuals, those with unique gifts and disabilities, marginalized groups, and people facing health inequities, including immigrants and refugees. The organization is guided by a volunteer Board of Directors, made up of seven members, including Indigenous people living with HIV/AIDS, who provide direction and support to governance.

The 2-Spirited People of the 1st Nations are pioneers in providing holistic, land-based HIV/AIDS treatment, care, and referral support programs to Two-Spirited, queer, and non-binary communities. They offer a range of services, including western and traditional harm reduction services, culturally supported HIV-Self Testing, education, awareness, and prevention activities for Sexually Transmitted and Blood Borne Infections (STBBI). The organization also has a dedicated Positive Living Program for community members living with HIV, which aims to eliminate AIDS by ensuring that undetectable can mean untransmittable.

2-Spirited People of the 1st Nations
© Jahmal Nugent

The Positive Living Program includes a range of services, such as the eight-week-long Food for Positive Living program, which provides weekly warm meals along with recipe education brochures for immunocompromised individuals. The Transportation for Positive Living program provides monthly transportation support to attend medical appointments, grocery stores, and ceremonies, while the Personal Hygiene Kits for Positive Living program provides daily hygiene essentials. The Elders Talking Circle and Sweat Lodge for Positive Living program provide monthly Sweat Lodge and talking circle sessions, followed by a feast. These are just scratching the surface of the support that the agency offers.

In addition to these services, the 2-Spirited People of the 1st Nations provides holistic support to its communities under a single roof, including client care support to find employment, navigate social assistance, legal services, housing, crisis intervention, cultural support, ceremonies, trauma counselling, Elders support, and home visits. They also develop and provide land-based, culturally supported training to community members, stakeholders, grassroots organizations, and individuals, using Indigenous holistic health and wellness philosophies, and are working to establish a shelter and transit home for those who end up in Toronto without support and community protection.

Teeming with ideas to strengthen and empower our communities, there are big plans for 2-Spirited People of the 1st Nations. Last month, a conference of over 100 community leaders, advocates, and members gathered to address community needs in Ontario and launched the first Two-Spirited Bursary Program, established to award 11 low barriers bursaries to Two-Spirited, Indigenous women, and LGBTQQIA students and community leaders.

Connect with 2-Spirited People of the 1st Nations:

Visit 2spirits.org/donate-now to learn more about how you can get involved in protecting the rights of Two-Spirited people, Indigenous women, queer and non-binary people in Canada.

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Since European colonization, the existence of the Two Spirit community has been systematically denied and culturally alienated from the Aboriginal identity. 2-Spirit members bear witness to this activity within the dominant Canadian society.


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