SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Pride events are underway in Sioux Falls, and Thursday a sacred Indigenous tradition is joining the lineup. For the first time, South Dakota Urban Indian Health (SDUIH) is hosting a Wacipi to honor Two-Spirit Individuals.

“Listen to the music. The music is healing itself, the drumbeat. And the songs,” Thomas DeCoteau Jr., cultural director at SDUIH, said.

Healing and reclaiming their past. That’s the goal for the inaugural Two-Spirit Wacipi.

“We’re having the celebration to honor our Two-Spirit relatives because long ago, in the past, they were sacred beings and a lot of them were medicine people and we looked to them for lots of help,” DeCoteau said.

“Our ancestors always had genders outside of the gender binary as we know it now and so this is kind of a way to reclaim that and reconnect to our ancestors and our ancestral history,” April Matson said.

April Matson with South Dakota Urban Indian Health says Two-Spirit is the umbrella term for Indigenous people to describe their cultural, sexual and gender identities. Often, that can mean a person embodies both a masculine and feminine spirit, Matson said.  

“A lot of Wacipis are specifically for men and for women and the couples are men and women. And this Wacipi will be open to any gender, any identity and we won’t have the gendered dances that you would normally see,” Matson said.

Matson explained that due to colonialism, many Native Americans were sent to boarding schools and reservations, but Two-Spirit people were “pretty much wiped out.” Because the Indigenous community survives on oral tradition, the history of the Two-Spirit ancestors was not passed onto young generations.

“A lot of Native people experience erasure on this larger level and then Two-spirit people or Indigenous people who are part of the LGBTQ community experience erasure on a whole other level on top of that,” Matson said.

In addition to Thursday’s Wacipi, SDUIH hosts a Two-Spirit and LGBTQ community group that meets every other week to gather and provide the community.

Thursday’s Wacipi is one of several Sioux Falls Pride-sponsored events this week.

“We really want to share our culture with other people and to be celebrated during Pride–  It’s not something I thought would happen here in Sioux Falls for Two-Spirit people,” Matson said.

The Wacipi will go until 9 Thursday night at the Multi-Cultural Center in Sioux Falls. The next grand entry is at 6 p.m.

“It feels good to bring the community together. And that’s what a Wacipi is also, you know, just bring people together. We can heal together, help each other in this walk to be proud of ourselves and to heal. To heal our hurts so we can just treat people good,” DeCoteau said.