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Towtongie clarifies ‘two spirited’ remarks that she says were lost in interpretation

MLA Cathy Towtongie says she wants no harm to come to two-spirited people and in no way did she intend to hurt parents in her Inuktitut remarks made in the legislative assembly on Thursday, which she says were poorly interpreted.

Read the interpreted statement here:

Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet MLA Cathy Towtongie says “two-spirited” is a First Nations’ term, not an Inuit term.
photo courtesy of the legislative assembly

Facing public backlash over the comments, Towtongie told Nunavut News that the specific term “two-spirited” has no history among Inuit people, including in Alaska and Greenland, but she acknowledged that LGBTQ terms do go back generations in Inuktitut. She gave the example sipiyuuq, which means transgender.

“I was really lost for the term (two-spirited). I was trying to speak in my language with ancient terms,” she said of her statement in the House. “I said the concept of two-spirited is not our concept, it’s First Nations’.”

Asked whether she fully supports the LGBTQ community, Towtongie replied that she takes the approach of “non-interference.”

“It has been the Inuit tradition and culture to always be non-interfering,” she said. “Have you ever seen mothers and children and the children are running around, and they’re not disciplined? That’s the way I was raised — non-interference. That’s the strongest word I can use. I’m trying to stay true to the prevailing authority that I was trained in.”

Towtongie described how Inuit have to cope with “standards and law imposed by another culture,” which she said has resulted in her becoming an “apple — red on the outside, white on the inside.”

“This creates ambivalences inside a person… with the prevailing authority that exist in my mind and the institutionalize authorities. I live by the law and the standard imposed by the law,” she stated.

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