Archived Exhibit

Poster for My Father's Father's Sister


Intro Panel and Historical Text

Historical Texts and Interpretative Panels

Medicines and Dress

Historical Text and Interpretative Panel

Historical Texts and Interpretative Panels

Beat The Drum Book and Front Entrance

Wax Cylinders and Player

Power Song Listening Area

Offerings In Listening Area

Two Spirit Comb by Beejee Qahir Peco


Steph Littlebird and Silas Little Hawk

Beejee Qahir Peco and Carla Rossi

Victoria Howard

Reflection Area


Intro Panel

We are Anthony Hudson and Felix Furby, two Grand Ronde people who are also queer. We found each other while searching for what being queer and Grand Ronde means for us culturally. Along the way, we also found Shimkhin—or she found us.

Shimkhin (1821-1904), pronounced “Shim-hun” or “Shum-hin,” (known alternatively as Shumkhi, shəmxi, čimkin, šə’mxn, qa’naťamax, and Nancy Jack), was a greatly respected Atfalati (Tualatin) Kalapuya healer living on the Grand Ronde Reservation. Although terms like transfeminine or Two Spirit are nontraditional words used to name Indigiqueer people today, Shimkhin and the rest of our ancestors most likely didn’t have or even need specific language to distinguish queer people from everyone else. In their world, we are traditional, sacred, and loved. Some people envision a future where we have decolonized and reclaimed traditions, but they do not include their queer relatives because they believe we don’t belong. Shimkhin’s life and our stories show that queerness is not new or exclusive to today.

We exist in every generation and every era. The first thing settlers attacked was gender—caging it inside a Eurocentric binary was an early method for assimilation. To unlearn this and embrace our traditional gender spectrum is a means for cultural revitalization and decolonization, for all of us, whether straight or queer, trans or cisgender. In presenting this research, drawn from 19th and early 20th-century ethnolinguistic accounts recorded on the Reservation—long available only to settler academics and researchers—we hope to show a vision for our future rooted in our past. We are honored to present Shimkhin’s story to teach you about our powerful ancestor, to subvert narratives of suffering, and to undo the tactics of assimilation that exclude us. Looking to the future, we desire to show not only an integrated and thriving trans ancestor but also the contributions of our living Two Spirit and Indigiqueer community members to our cultures today.

From The Clackamas Chinook Texts

It is crucial to note that Clackamas Chinook ancestor Victoria Howard (1867-1930) calls Shimkhin her “father’s father’s sister,” and that she correctly genders her throughout (the accompanying parenthetical text “and a transvestite” was added by settler linguist Melville Jacobs in his English translation, which we will soon address). To use someone’s self-identified pronouns and name, as Howard does here, is to affirm a person and their identity, while to intentionally use the wrong pronouns, or a deadname (a name that no longer fits), is to misgender them.

For the Grand Ronde community in the 19th century, affirming identity was an ancestral value. From what we can tell, this was practiced across the Northwest: Walter Williams’s book The Spirit and the Flesh details another celebrated transfeminine Two Spirit healer, White Cindy, who was greatly respected by her Klamath community that “followed the Indian custom of using the feminine pronoun.”

From My Life, by Louis Kenoyer

Atfalati Kalapuya ancestor Louis Kenoyer (1867-1937) shared this story of being doctored by Shimkhin, calling her Shumkhi, with Melville Jacobs. Recounted in Tualatin Northern Kalapuya in the book My Life, by Louis Kenoyer, translators Jedd Schrock and Henry Zenk note that Kenoyer alternates between male/female identification when describing Shimkhin; this is the only Kalapuyan dialect to feature gendered pronouns.

Kenoyer initially posits her as a “man” (kʷakʷ) and then primarily uses feminine pronouns (gεʹdɔk) to refer to her. This could be because Atfalati ideas of gender are not as rigid as the European model. It is also possible that as Kenoyer walked back deeper into memory, he found himself adjusting from settler expectations—and a worldview that was becoming more prevalent with time—to what he remembered from an older, more traditional worldview: the she that Shimkhin was, the woman who brought him back to health. As Schrock describes her: “Shimkhin feels like a hero to me.”

From The Kalapuya Texts

Not far removed in time from us today, Santiam Kalapuya ancestor (and Anthony’s great great uncle) John “Mose” Hudson (1868-1954) worked with Melville Jacobs as a key Santiam Kalapuyan speaker. Hudson provided this first-hand account of Shimkhin from childhood. In this interview, Hudson is trying to explain a complex concept of gender from a different worldview with a settler who does not understand.

Santiam Kalapuyan does not have gendered pronouns, nor does it use pronouns in the same way as in English.

All language written in parentheses was added by Jacobs, communicating his attempt to understand what was being told to him. Where we see “he” in Jacobs’ translation, it would be more accurate to utilize singular third person pronouns; singular “they” is common in Indigenous languages, like chinuk wawa’s yaka and Santiam Kalapuya’s kʷakʷ.

We drew brackets around the pronouns highlighting Jacob’s cis-hetero settler bias, who defaulted to an assumptive “he” while translating from a language that does not specify

Added Parentheses To The Kalapuya Texts


Skiyup is a witch-like spirit who, as described by Emmy to Albert Gatschet, wore a cedar bark dress and traveled in the air, inflicting violent—if not fatal—responses in anyone who encountered it. For those who dared to attain skiyup spirit power, though, it offered the power to become a woman and a shaman.

As these documents demonstrate, Shimkhin had to dance on Spirit Mountain for five nights for five
consecutive years to attain this power. As is made plain by accounts of Shimkhin’s daily life, the role of woman imparted by skiyup was not ceremonial, nor was it the “cost” to become a shaman. To attain skiyup power, for Shimkhin, was a rite of passage to become who she was meant to be—a woman and a doctor.


Shimkhin had at least four t̓əmanəwas or spirit powers (ayuɬmei in Tualatin Kalapuyan): skiyup power, coyote power, water power, and dead person power. We are unsure how water power and coyote power worked, but the latter is credited with giving her clairvoyance. Skiyup power gave her the ability to become a woman and a shaman. Dead person power allowed her to heal shadow sickness caused by lingering spirits and guide dead people out of the home and away from the living.

The combination of these powers made her a powerful shaman and respected healer across the region—the one whose power was called on to break curses placed by other t̓əmanəwas doctors and whom you would ask to travel and provide medicine for a sick child.

Shimkhin's Sexuality and Regional Renown

Shimkhin’s impact wasn’t limited to the Grand Ronde Reservation—it was statewide, reaching across Tribal nations. In her book Living in the Great Circle, Kalapuya ancestor June L. Olson cites Clara Pearson’s memory of seeing Shimkhin at Siletz. Pearson’s account reveals Shimkhin’s sexual orientation—different from her female gender—as being quite queer, too: when it came to her lovers, “gender did not seem to be an issue, but [Shimkhin] wanted them to be very good looking. To seal the arrangement, Nancy [Shimkhin’s English name] bought her young lovers nice clothes and a horse.”

Power Song

In addition to offering her account of being doctored by Shimkhin, Victoria Howard also sang Shimkhin’s power song for Melville Jacobs, recorded in 1929 on a wax cylinder like the one on the neighboring pedestal. It is taboo to sing another person’s power song, but Howard clearly made a choice to record her ancestor’s song—even using a matchbook for a drum, as customs were prohibited at this time of Tribal termination—for the sake of preservation, so that future ancestors could hear it.

While this recording is accessible to any academic who knows where to look, we carefully made the decision to include Howard’s recording in the listening station just past this wall, accompanied by a request for energy exchange in gratitude to Victoria Howard and Shimkhin. This is a moment of direct connection with an ancestor teaching us about another.

Contemporary Community

Conversations around queerness often center around youth, the immediate present, and hopes for the future. These conversations are essential. It is also important to remember and honor our queer elders. They have a different level of visibility than younger generations do.

Though being out still is a risk today for all generations, elders have lived through times when it was much less safe to be out and be who they are. The work that we do now for our own justice and inclusion would not be possible if it weren’t for the ongoing work of our elders, and they deserve to see this change now.

Steph Littlebird (she/they/any)

Steph Littlebird is an artist, writer, curator, and Grand Ronde Tribal member who created the central image of Shimkhin—with whom Steph shares Atfalati Kalapuyan kinship—in this exhibit. Her work often examines issues related to Native identity, cultural resilience, and land stewardship.

By combining traditional styles of her Indigenous ancestors with contemporary illustration aesthetics, Steph is in high demand. Her art has been featured by brands like Star Wars/Lucasfilm, Yahoo, Luna Bar, and media outlets such as PBS News and ArtNews. Steph is currently a 2023 Indigenous Placekeeping Artist Fellow, has released the Indigenous children’s book My Powerful Hair with Carole Lindstom, and curated This IS Kalapuyan Land at Portland’s Pittock Mansion. “Being a Two Spirit artist means I have a spiritual responsibility to create art that uplifts Native people and centers our cultural values,” she says. “This is why I do what I do, to make sure Indigenous people know they are seen and loved.”

Silas Little Hawk (they/he/grrl)

Silas Hoffer is a Grand Ronde Tribal member and among the first generation on their mother’s side of the family to be raised off the Yakama Reservation—Silas’s mother and átway (grandfather) are enrolled in the Yakama Nation.

Silas works with youth at the Native American Youth and Family Center in Portland, serving as the Two Spirit Programming Advocate for our next generations. Silas is also an accomplished Powwow dancer and was crowned Mr. Montana Two Spirit in 2021. Speaking to honoring both Indigiqueer personhood and privacy, Silas says: “I am what westerners call ‘transgender.’ I have hormonally transitioned, with my first HRT shot being November 12, 2019. Am I assigned male at birth? Assigned female? Intersex? That is between me and my physician. All that needs to be known is who I am today— healthy, whole, happy.”

Beejee Qahir Peco (all pronouns: he/she/they/them)

Beejee Qahir Peco is a Grand Ronde elder from Umpqua and Rogue River. They are a wood carver, using traditional and modern design to create pieces based on cultural imagery. Their carving is rich in story, history, skill, and precision. Qahir’s passion for working with wood and how it connects to their ancestors can be felt in the pieces, deepening the connection for us who see the carvings.

They retired from a career in Early Childhood Education as a Division Director for Children and Family Services. However, they continue their contributions to the field through the Threads of Justice Collective, for which they are a board member. This collective works with early childhood educators and policymakers to do anti-bias work, bringing justice, inclusion, and cultural sensitivity to marginalized and underrepresented students. We are honored to show two of Qahir’s works here: their recently published children’s book Beat The Drum, and a traditional-style comb titled Two Spirit.

Carla Rossi (she/her)

Carla Rossi is Portland’s premier drag clown and “the ghost of white privilege” (and, as she puts it: “that’s hilarious because white privilege will never die”). Anthony has been performing as—or with?—Carla since 2010, imagining her as a trickster who has haunted humanity throughout time: a self-serving clown and Karen who always betrays her own cause for the betterment of everyone else.

For Anthony, who cites ties to both Shimkhin and White Cindy as a Kalapuya and Klamath person, becoming Carla is how he accesses and honors all aspects of his identity and role as a Two Spirit person. A star on her own, Carla appears in Anthony’s one-person show Looking for Tiger Lily, which Anthony began adapting into a book with support from Grand Ronde’s Indigenous Placekeeping Artist Fellowship in 2022. Unfortunately, Carla cannot read, so she can neither confirm nor deny any details about her in the book or on this panel, but she fully intends to press charges.

To Be Two Spirit and Indigiqueer Today

The settlers’ understanding of gender and sexuality is culturally different from Indigenous people. The term Two Spirit was created in 1990 as a pan-Indigenous term to better describe and explore our identities and histories without a colonially centered framework. Some resonate with the term for personal and cultural reasons, while others do not.

A central question for many of us is, “What does my gender and sexuality mean within the context of my Indigenous culture?” For some, answers can be found in historical documents. Others have less access to cultural interpretation due to erasure, practices going underground for safety, misunderstandings by outsiders recording the history, or documentation made under the pressure of assimilation. We can look for clues and find good evidence, as we have here, but the path to revitalizing our cultures requires us to embrace what is uncovered and decide where we want this process to take us.

Like any other living society, we can shape our future cultural identities by collaborating with our home communities and our authentic selves. To achieve this, we need acceptance and inclusion. Shimkhin’s story offers a glimpse into a world where being queer and trans is customary, not marginalized. This ancestral way of life gives us hope that we can achieve this again. Seeing ourselves othered, politicized, and criminalized, our identities are so entwined with oppression that it is hard to imagine a different world for us. Individuals like Shimkhin can help us visualize a holistic future rooted in our past, inspired by the values of our ancestors.