Gregory Smithers is professor of History at Virginia Commonwealth University and a British Academy Global Professor. He specializes in Native American history and culture from the eighteenth century to the present, with an emphasis on the Cherokee people and their Indigenous and non-Indigenous neighbors in the Native South. Smithers' research also explores the history of climate change through the lens of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and tackles questions about how and why people form individual and collective identities. He is the author of numerous books, the most recent being Native Southerners: Indigenous History from Origins to Removal (2019) and The Cherokee Diaspora: An Indigenous History of Migration, Resettlement, and Identity (2015).
Colonial invasion caused centuries of physical and emotional trauma throughout Indian Country. This proved especially true for people who today use the umbrella term two-spirit, a term that denotes the existence of masculine and feminine qualities residing within a single Native person. This lecture reveals the searing levels of violence that European colonizers brought to Native communities from the early sixteenth century and considers the consequences of that violence on Native people whose gender and sexual identities did not conform with prevailing European norms. Significantly, the lecture highlights how two-spirit people are today talking back to, undermining, and cutting through that history to reclaim their place in Indigenous communities and undermine homophobia and transphobia by demanding the protection of their civil rights throughout the United States.