Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow was Oglala Lakota from the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. She was a “strong woman who could do all she would to help those in need.” In Lakota culture, the virtues of generosity, fortitude and courage are three of several defining character traits that children are taught to emulate in their living days. By all accounts, Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow demonstrated those with grace and humility.
In most indigenous cultures in North America, Two Spirit (LGBTQ) people held places of distinction within each nation. In some, they were regarded as healers, keepers of tradition, spiritual and political leaders; in others, they were elevated because of their unique place as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender non-conforming people within tribal communities. Through the process of colonization by Christian indoctrination and political subjugation, combined with Western attitudes toward gender as binary, Two Spirit people lost much of their own history and traditions. In recent years, the movement within indigenous communities to restore Two Spirit traditions has been inspiring and by no means complete.
But none of that inspiration can ease the shock and anger we feel when we think of Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow. Beyond all other considerations, the hunting and killing of transgender women of color in the United States continues, unabated and unapologetically. It must stop. The most vulnerable of the vulnerable are sought out and killed because they dare to live as their truest selves, without apology.
We must resist. Our resistance must be great, loud and unapologetic.
The Board of Directors and staff of PFund Foundation keep the Wounded Arrow family in our thoughts and our hearts in the days ahead as they live with this unbearable loss. Our thoughts are with the Two Spirit communities in South Dakota as they work under intimidation and bigoted attitudes to restore their rightful place in their tribal communities and to build new societies.
On January 20, Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow would have celebrated her 29th birthday. Let us mark that day as one of memory and dedication to resist the hatred against LGBTQ people in our own house. Let us also keep the words of Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow in our minds as we look for strength. “Life is a series of choices, and since you’re the creator of your decisions … Sometimes you have to take the good with the bad and live life as a journey, not about your particular destination.”
We uplift Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow this day and in all days to come.
Rest in Power Jamie.
To make a donation to Sioux Falls Two Spirit and Allies to defray travel costs for Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow’s family, click here.