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Raven Two Feathers shares Trans and Native worldviews through film, VR

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Raven Two Feathers — Photo courtesy of the artist
Raven Two Feathers — Photo courtesy of the artist

Seattle-based Raven Two Feathers (he/they) tells stories through sound, video, comics, and photography. The Emmy Award—winning creator spoke with the SGN about his personal history, work as a creator, and upcoming projects.

Becoming a creator
Two Feathers, who is from from Albuquerque, New Mexico, found his calling at just three years old. "I said to my mom that I wanted to be a producer," he said. "I say it's because I watched too much TV when I was younger, and producer was the first credit that popped up. But I didn't find out about that story until I was already in high school winning awards for the films I was making."

Two Feathers first took film classes in seventh grade and continued pursuing it in high school. From there, he decided to go to film school. "Luckily I believed in myself and had parents that believed in what I was doing," he said.

While studying at University of Alaska, Fairbanks, he worked on a short nonfiction film, GeoFORCE: A Journey to Understanding. It was the first piece he was paid for, and it won a 2015 Northwest Regional Emmy Award.

Two Feathers identifies himself as Native (Cherokee, Seneca, Cayuga, and Comanche), Two Spirit, Trans, and Queer. He introduced himself in Lushootseed, a regional Native language

As a creator, he said, not everyone has "the luck to be Trans or the luck to be Native."

Photo courtesy of the artist  

Two Feathers started working with narrative and documentary forms of film in high school. He uses environmental storytelling "as a technique to not only tell a story within those mediums but also to strengthen all of the other mediums."

His work deals with "explorations and inroads for folks to start to listen and learn about various intersections [...] and to step into those ways of being."

More recently, Two Feathers has begun using VR as a medium and has started to work with video games, too.

To him, film "is a space where people are looking for someone else's opinion on things. And being able to provide how I look at the world as a discussion point or as a learning point for people to begin to talk about what the state of our world looks like — and what it could look like in the future, or what we hope it will look like — is really where a lot of my work is focused on."

On his worldview, Two Feathers said, "There are quite a few cultural differences, even within Native cultures, between different Native cultures, but there is this sense of respect and reciprocity, and stewardship amongst most North American Native peoples."

He continued, "I feel [that sense] is somewhat woven throughout American expansionism... across Turtle Island [North America], and the genocide that went with it. But I feel like they're now dually [sic], with the revival of focus on Native peoples and recognition of Native peoples, now that we're able to practice our cultures and religions and languages [...] This is just the beginning of an entire new or renewed world that we can go through that is a lot more focused on what it means to be an individual, as well as [one] who is contributing to community, and being able to uplift us all."

Two Feathers' worldviews in his work also grapple with finding justice from "over 500 years of genocide just on this continent, and what does it mean to escape colonialism when you come from colonizers, and how do you do that in a way that is not appropriative and is respectful and reciprocal with the folks that you are working with and whose land you're living on, and how do you do that when that is the culture that we live in... how do you shift culture."

Previous projects
Two Feathers used previous projects to explore his lived experiences. He worked with Jonny Cechony and Tracy Rector on his comic The Qualifications of Being in order to share "little moments of foreshadowing" from his early life growing up Trans and Two Spirit.

He also created a VR short film, A Drive to Top Surgery, which portrays his experiences with gender affirmation surgery by bringing the audience along on a car ride with his family. He plans to submit the project to festivals.

Two Feathers also served as the photography assistant on several Gender Gems pieces. The visual design project honors gender-diverse leaders and elders in the Puget Sound region; it most recently highlighted Storme Webber and Tiare Feterika Chanel at the Vera Project and Gay City, respectively.

Said Two Feathers, "I think it's important to honor these elders and leaders, especially since we are so far into the pandemic now, because of the new resurgence of seeing how valuable life is. I think recognizing the amount of work and effort put into where we are now is all the sweeter and all the more revolutionary [for] thinking how we want to move forward in the future."

Photo courtesy of the artist  

Upcoming work
Two Feathers is in the process of creating a company, Raven and Relatives, for his future work. One upcoming project, Strong Men, Strong Community, will be an NIH-funded documentary focused on Native men's health. It uses a Zoom format to speak with Native men and was created with Two Feathers' mother and WSU. The study focuses on the men's "own relation to themselves and to the people around them and, and the things that they've faced and overcome with hope, joy, and bliss."

"I feel very lucky to be Trans," he added, "because I am able to understand and unpack all of the different things that men, because of the patriarchy, go through in regards to repressed emotions and [relating] with one another. And so it feels really interesting to be thought of as one of the guys and be brought into this space in a really brotherly way."

Two Feathers is also working on a docuseries, Indigenous Genders, which will speak with five Indigenous people across the country about their experiences outside the gender binary. He hopes the series will bring "a little bit more hope and joy and recognition of the complexities of our lives [to] TV."

Two Feathers is most proud that he enjoys his work, adding, "I just have to be the best me and put in my best effort to make this thing come to reality, because it would be more of a shame for it not to be out in the world than it would be for it to not be perfect."

Visit more of Raven Two Feathers' work at https://www.ravenandrelatives.com/ or https://linktr.ee/Raven_Two_Feathers, and follow him on Instagram and Facebook for updates on new projects.