Berdache – Two Spirit Native Americans

Berdache – Two Spirit Native Americans

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When the French explorers Louis Joliet and Jacques Marquette first came into contact with the Illini Indians in 1673, they were astonished to discover a subset of Illini men who dressed and acted out the social role of women.

The Illini termed these men “Ikoneta” while the French referred to them as the “Berdache.”

Berdache males wore women’s clothing, spent their time doing traditional “women’s work,” and often held a sacred or spiritual role in the tribe.

They had sex with other men and would often become a secondary “wife” to a man who was already married to one or more women.

As small boys, the Berdache showed marked tendencies towards femininity and were thus raised as girls.

The conventional wisdom among many Native American historians is that the berdache were bisexual.