By Hmuya Mani (Richard Two Dogs)
Editor’s note: this information was shared on social media in recognition of the upcoming LGBTQ History Month in October.
In the old days the people that are now called “winkte” were once called “wapetokeca.” This word has several meanings but it generally means one who is marked, but in a good way. It is one who has signs, who is connected to miracles and wonders.
The “wapetokeca” were looked upon as people with special powers. They were considered to be persons who brought good luck. Many of the traditional Lakota leaders received their names from the “wapetokeca.” It is said that Crazy Horse and Black Elk got their names from them. In fact, it was said that Crazy Horse went into battle with a “wapetokeca” riding at his side.
Often the “winkte” were called upon to give names to Lakota babies. The “wapetokeca” were men who lived in a woman’s body or women who lived in a man’s body. They were highly respected. They were some of the best quillworkers and beadworkers in the camps.
The modern world has changed that view amongst many contemporary Lakota and the beliefs about winkte or wapetokeca. Modern society has made the LGBTQ community out to be bad and the stigma has passed to the younger generation.
I believe this came from Indians who served in the military and learned that to be “winkte” was to be ostracized, ridiculed and eventually discharged from the military with a dishonorable or a medical discharge. They brought this brainwashing back to the reservations.