A Two-Spirit Journey
The Autobiography of a Lesbian Ojibwa-Cree Elder
A Two-Spirit Journey is Ma-Nee Chacaby’s extraordinary account of her life as an Ojibwa-Cree lesbian. From her early, often harrowing memories of life and abuse in a remote Ojibwa community riven by poverty and alcoholism, Chacaby’s story is one of enduring and ultimately overcoming the social, economic, and health legacies of colonialism.
As a child, Chacaby learned spiritual and cultural traditions from her Cree grandmother and trapping, hunting, and bush survival skills from her Ojibwa stepfather. She also suffered physical and sexual abuse by different adults, and in her teen years became alcoholic herself. At twenty, Chacaby moved to Thunder Bay with her children to escape an abusive marriage. Abuse, compounded by racism, continued, but Chacaby found supports to help herself and others. 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, Chacaby led the first gay pride parade in Thunder Bay.
Ma-Nee Chacaby has emerged from hardship grounded in faith, compassion, humour, and resilience. Her memoir provides unprecedented insights into the challenges still faced by many Indigenous people.
- FINALIST, Lesbian Memoir/Biography, Lambda Literary Awards (2016)
- FINALIST, Trans and Gender-Variant Literature, Publishing Triangle Awards (2016)
- WINNER, Honourary Award for Literature, Fierté Simcoe Pride (2017)
- NOMINEE, Mary Scorer Award for Best Book by a Manitoba Publisher, Manitoba Book Awards (2017)
- WINNER, Book Award, Oral History Association (2017)
- WINNER, The Alison Prentice Award, The Ontario Historical Society (2018)
“From groundbreaking and controversial AIDS awareness programs in the 1990s to the work she continues to do today, both with her own family and her extended reserve family, her life and this memoir ultimately serve as handbook of hope.”
– Lara Rae, Winnipeg Free Press (Link)
“This book comes at a critical time in Canada’s history, and is an educational text crucial to understanding some of the issues that First Nations communities confront today.”
– Emily Rivas, This Magazine
“The story that Chacaby and Plummer recount is truly an extraordinary one, but it is also one that will resonate with many people whose stories have not been often told. Plummer situates A Two-Spirit Journey within the context of other life histories collected from Native elders in Canada, but Chacaby is among the first LGBT elders to publish her story. The perspective of a lesbian Ojibwa-Cree elder is invaluable for LGBT Native youth and will be an enriching experience for many others, particularly those who have experienced abuse, disability, poverty, or the effects of colonization.”
– Kai Pyle, Studies in American Indian Literatures
“Leveraging the storytelling traditions that she learned as a young girl in Ombabika, Ont., this autobiography is rich in detail and reads like taking tea with a wise and dear grandmother. Plummer’s role is evident in the way the book is organized, but she is otherwise unobtrusive, facilitating rather than obfuscating Chacaby’s narration.”
– Publishers Weekly
“The entire narrative is delivered in a voice so authentic that it feels more like listening to someone telling a story at a kitchen table than reading a memoir alone in bed.”
– Rachel Carlson, herizons magazine
“A Two-Spirit Journey contains a wealth of cultural and social insight.”
– Carleigh Baker, The Malahat Review
“A compelling, distressing, moving, and uplifting memoir of an Ojibwa-Cree lesbian elder, healer, and activist who struggled to cope with and overcome the insidious and violent legacies of colonialism. Told through the story-telling traditions she learned from her grandmother in Ombabika, Ontario, Ma-Nee Chacaby’s story of childhood friendships, family conflicts, abuse, loss, sexual awakening, activism and self-healing reveals the resilience and compassion of a remarkable woman and, in doing so, also powerfully underscores a most timely message – that, like healing, genuine reconciliation cannot occur without everyone first confronting the ugly truths about Canada’s mistreatment of Indigenous peoples.”
– Jury, Alison Prentice Award, The Ontario Historical Society
“Activist, survivor, mother, counsellor, Ma-Nee Chacaby recounts her sometimes harrowing life with a calm and steady voice, infused with resilience and compassion. Effectively designed and edited to appeal to both the general public and those engaged in Indigenous studies, A Two-Spirit Journey presents an important story, powerfully told.”
– Nik Burton, Rick Walker, and Carolyn Wood, Judges, Mary Scorer Award for Best Best by a Manitoba Publisher, 2017 Manitoba Book Awards.
“In a culture that dehumanizes indigenous peoples and the poor, this memoir forces the reader to confront racist and classist stereotypes and begin the emotional labour required for reconciliation. Chacaby’s book is a triumph, providing a bridge across social divides with its searing humanity.”
– Emily Leung-Pittman, The Goose
“An excellent memoir that gives readers, whether Indigenous or not, a direct connection to the past and to a personal story about gender, sexuality, overcoming adversity, and becoming a leader, an activist, a healer, and an inspiration to two-spirit individuals everywhere.”
– Robert Bittner, Simon Fraser University, The Canadian Journal of Native Studies
“A Two-Spirit Journey is a raw and emotional story that doesn’t just show readers the author’s scars. Chacaby bares all in an honest telling of her life that includes flaws, like her struggles with substance abuse and a sometimes rocky path to sobriety. Despite the turmoil, the autobiography does have its uplifting moments and characters. Heartwarming stories of childhood friendships, and most importantly a powerful relationship between the author and her grandmother, weave feelings of optimism and hope into a life that is oftentimes surrounded by darkness.”
– Scott Paradis, tbnewswatch.com (Link)
“An extraordinary account of an extraordinary life and very highly recommended for community and academic library Contemporary Biography, LGBT, and Native American Studies collections.”
– Midwest Book Review
“I highly recommend A Two-Spirit Journey. I read it in a single day, in a few hours. It spoke to me of the social and cultural markers that we share with our Canada cousins: the incredible ongoing violence against womyn; gender as a social construct dictating how womyn are supposed to behave, dress, wear their hair and makeup; Tuberculosis; and the introduction of AIDS to the Native population. But also the risk of coming out, potlucks and womyn’s festivals. I related to her story on so many levels and truly believe that you will too.”
– Morgayne Love, sequimmorgayne (Link)
“In this book, Chacaby shares an incredible story, giving voice to perspectives which are rarely heard.”
– Jenna, Falling Letters (Link)
About the Authors
Ma-Nee Chacaby is a Two-Spirit Ojibwa-Cree Elder. She was raised by her Cree grandmother in a remote Ojibwa community near Lake Nipigon, Ontario.
Mary Louisa Plummer is a social scientist and a long-time friend of Ma-Nee’s. Much of her professional work has focused on public health and children’s rights.
- A Two-Spirit Journey: The Autobiography of a Lesbian Ojibwa-Cree Elder
- Ma-Nee Chacaby (Author), Mary Louisa Plummer (Author)
- Published May 2016, 264 pages
- Paper, ISBN: 978-0-88755-812-2, 6 × 9, $24.95
- Topic(s): Autobiography, Indigenous Studies
- Part of the U of M Press series: Critical Studies in Native History