Shaking Our Shells: Cherokee Two-Spirits Rebalancing The World by: Qwo-Li Driskill

The article that we had to read for class called Shaking Our Shells: Cherokee Two-Spirits Rebalancing The World by Qwo-Li Driskill is in the form of a Stomp Dance that comes from the conversations and experiences of other Cherokee Two-Spirits. The first part of the story is called Sagwu: A Call to Assemble. What Driskill is attempting to do is call all Cherokee’s to the Stomp Dance, which is performed to maintain duyuktv, which is balance, truth and justice. Driskill explains how there is a Cherokee prophecy that says, “as long as the Cherokees continue traditional dances, the world will remain as it is, but when the dances stop, the world will come to an end.” In Part One the gender systems of the Cherokees are explained. They are not the same now, after colonization and invasion, as they once were. Driskill uses “Two-Spirit” as an umbrella term because not everyone identifies with it and because there aren’t very many terms to use in English. “Two-Spirit people are currently involved in a complex process of asserting our identities through strengthening memories of our past, committing to who we are in our present, and imagining who we want to be in the future.”

Part Two is called Daksi, Daksi, Daksi Alegwui, Come on All You Shell Shakers. At the Stomp Dance it is part of the men’s responsibilities to sing songs, and the women’s to shake shells. The role of the woman is very important, “Stomp Dances cannot take place without shell shakers: our life ways are dependent on them” Driskill explains how the responsibilities of male-embodied Two-Spirit Cherokees is like shell shaking, to sustain their life ways and cultures. They have the responsibility to restore and maintain duyuktv through practicing Cherokee life ways and ending gender oppressions.

Part Three is the Friendship Dance. The Friendship Dance reflects a balance between genders. When invaders came to Cherokee land they ruined the gender roles. Before women had power over their children, homes, and community agriculture. Christian Europeans forced their ideas of male supremacy, rigid gender categories, and sexuality as something to be suppressed onto the Cherokee. Cherokee Two-Spirits feel it is in their power to restore duyuktv because of their relationship with gender.

Part Four is the Stomp Dance. Stomp Dancing is the key idea behind the continuance of tradition and remembering who they are as Two-Spirit people is a part of that continuance. “This process of cultural revitalization, for all of us, is like a stomp dance. It is through this work that we rebalance the world.”

Part Five is the Old Folks’ Dance. They look at the Old Folks’ Dance as a way to look at their elders and ancestors to understand their past and understand who they are in the present. Putting some aspects of their past into practice is part of an ongoing Old Folks Dance and is a good way for them to honor their history and it rebalances their present and future.

Part Six is the Prayer.


Wa’do for all the blessings you give us.

Wa’do for our food, our water, our homes, our friends, our family. Wa’do for bringing us to this place and time to do this work.

Help us not be afraid.

Help us walk duyuktv.

Help us continue our language and our lifeways.

Help us do the work that we need to do to heal ourselves, our communities, and our world.


Part Seven is Going Home. Many Cherokee Two-Spirits live away from Cherokee lands and many others don’t take part in ceremonies. Most have no desire to live in conservative areas of the country where the homelands are located.  Driskill explains which I find the most important,

“regardless of where we are, we can certainly learn our language, learn our traditional arts, and learn our songs. And we can work to ensure that we walk duyuktv in our own lives through intentional and careful work to dismantle sexism, transphobia, and queerphobia from our psyches and lives. We can teach other Two-Spirit people how to come home to themselves and each other, shaking the shells of resistance and healing in order to repair the world. We can bring our story back together. Each of us has a piece.”

Shaking Our Shells Article


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