Two Spirits Play A Pivotal Role To Indigenous Survival
A Conversation With Tony Enos
Due to Colonization, a vast majority of the LGBTQ2S find ourselves struggling to reclaim our Sacred Space in our Tribal Communities. In the times of Non-Natives speaking about Indigenous issues, many have a tendency to show support for Indigenous Communities but not the LGBT2S, particularly Trans. You can not separate Two Spirits from Indigenous Culture. Two Spirit issues are Indigenous issues and we have long played vital roles in our Tribal Communities. Tony Enos is an Echota Cherokee who also has Black, Puerto Rican, Italian, Pakistani, Arabic, Jordanian and Melanesian heritages. In Two Spirit Nation, most are familiar with not only Tony Enos’ high vibrational music but also his incredible work in advocating for Two Spirits, Indigenous Communities, protecting the Sacred and advocacy on HIV issues.
As an artist, Tony Enos is a pop musician and should be dually noted that he has an incredible voice. Where most artists sing from their diaphragm, Enos sings from his Spirit. We first met collaborating on the song “ Others Like Me “ that we wrote for the Ford Disability Future’s Festival with another contributor. The collaboration brought together Indigenous Two Spirit Disabled artists that work in very different genres and even have different taste in music. What brought us together was not only a commitment to ensuring Indigenous Survival but also writing an anthem for Two Spirit folks. We need to be reminded that we are and have always been Sacred in our low times, in all times. Togetherness is something that is a big theme in Tony Enos’ work. “ What is important to to me is being a part of the universal mind. I do my best to live in spirit constantly. In spirit you realize that separateness is illusion. We all come from the same divine source “ said Tony Enos. It is his fervor and optimistic outlook that has won over many hearts in and outside of Two Spirit Communities. It is also something that has given Tony the opportunity of becoming a Native American Music Awards nominee twice. He is always working on new music and when he isn’t, Tony can be found pushing for a better world on many different panels or in awareness programs.
The Pandemic has been a game changer and for many it’s been difficult to cope in a world that had very little in person human interaction. Many people who once joked about Mental Health issues found themselves struggling with Mental Health for the first time. In these last two years, people have learned to understand the importance of Mental Health on a personal and global level. LGBTQ2S began to suffer a little more because prior to Covid, many had kept their sanity by turning to the warmth of their chosen family. Many LGBTQ2S also relied heavily on sharing space with other people from the same community, something that we were not able to do in person for some time. Thank Creator for the movers and shakers that were resourceful enough to create virtual events. For some of us, these virtual events were a catalyst for working with or meeting people we might have never gotten a chance to without most events going digital. Mental Health is an epidemic that began to garner much attention due to the Global Issues with Covid 19. However, there is an epidemic that has been around since the 80s that has often times found itself not getting the proper attention it deserves. On one of the panels Tony and I sat on, it was evident a feeling Tony was feeling when being asked about vaccines. There is a big conversation that needed to take place, he needed to speak for one of the communities he comes from. He needed to address a very real issue and most of all, Tony and that community deserve to be heard. In interviewing Tony for this article, I asked “ How did the rush to create a vaccine for Covid make you feel when you are living as a person that is positive with HIV? “ Tony is a lovable and high vibrational person but he paused to feel and to prepare to make a solemn response. “ I felt upset that thousands of people had too die before the United Staes even acknowledged what was happening at the beginning of the HIV epidemic in the 80s. Thousands of people had to die before any treatments were created. At some point they thought it was cancer. The funds didn’t come in as quickly for an HIV vaccine as it did for a Covid vaccine. We are coming up on 40 years and the HIV/POZ community is still asking for a vaccine as well as access. It’s an insult “ said Enos.
When I think of Tony Enos, I think of an optimistic person with integrity. He is the kind of person that smiles regardless of struggle. Like any artist and person that is trying to push for positive change, there will always be critics. There has been many occasions where he has not fed into situations that didn't deserve his energy.
“ What is your Mantra? What is advice you would have to share on how one reacts to criticism and hardship? “ I asked.
Tony quickly responded “ there is power in no, power in I don’t care and so what? “ Nothing will ever be as important as his peace. He fought the battle of his ego and says it is a general practice for him to keep his ego in check. “ My peace is paramount. For myself, I feel like you can’t access anything if you don’t have peace “ said Enos. One big issue that Tony and other Indigenous People have experienced is anti-blackness. It has been more widely acceptable for a Native to be Indigenous and part White but being Indigenous with Black Ancestry is sometimes treated like the greatest sin. “ There is something that is very broken in our community. It’s okay to be White and Indian but not Black and Indian. It is wrong and so racist “ said Enos. Toxic Positivity has also played a giant role in erasing the struggle or minimizing the struggle of marginalized communities. Tony is the real deal. He chooses peace over conflict as much as possible but Tony knows exactly when to warrior up and speak with integrity. For Native People, we live by a code and doing the right thing is what’s always most important for us. We were not always seeking War like your disingenuous History books of convenience say. I asked Tony when he knows it’s time to break from his peace and act. “ When something is unhealthy, any oppression - I need to have a conversation with myself. I need to make sure that I’m keeping my ego in check. It’s when I witness not just the oppression of people but the oppression of spirit. When it is bad medicine. I try to pick my battles because I don’t always need for my opinion to be front and center. “ It is Tony’s practice to how he functions when being an advocate that has gotten him much praise but also that our communities recognize him as someone that is trustworthy.
Tony spent some time at the Two Spirit Camp at Standing Rock. He took his medicine and his support. Many Tribal Nations came together to protect the Sacred. You can’t drink oil. It is sad that many reservations have oil pipelines going through Treaty Land but there has been no such urgency to bring pipes in to give those Reservations running water. Having to travel for water is something that played a role in Covid 19 spreading the way it did in Indian Country. “ Water is Mother’s life blood. Every living thing needs water. Everyone wakes up to hydrate. I’m always astounded at Capitalism thinking they’re above that natural law. That they can pollute rivers and water. Once the water is gone, it’s gone. We have only a small amount of time to get it right and rectify all of the horrible effects of global warming and pollution “ said Enos. At Standing Rock, he wasn’t arrest-able because he was one of two people that shared the driving from New York to Standing Rock. He was blessed to be able to cook for the Two Spirit camp the weekend he was there. He looked over people at the camp and made sure the protectors continued to be nourished. “ To see all the Nations and flags, so many Nations coming together to unite for this cause. We were all there to be a part of the greater good. It is something I will always be grateful for. To be a part of that experience and the learning “ said Enos. It was more than just Tribal Nations that gathered from America. Tribes came from all over the “ Americas “ and other Indigenous people from Indigenous cultures from all over the world also joined. For the first time, Indigenous People of the world gathered to protect the Sacred. K’oh Ei Iinaa - Water Is Life.
On June 1st, Tony will be releasing his new album ‘ Indestructible ‘. That title uses a word that most people who know Tony would use to describe him. ‘ Indestructible ‘ is also the title of the first single off the album, it is a cover of the original song from the pop artist Robyn. The song talks about loving someone as though you have never been hurt before. That idea of starting with a clean slate is beautiful. It is no wonder that this song resonated with Tony so much. Robyn so eloquently gave amazing advice on the endurance of the spirit and how to open to love after suffering. Tony spoke of how much the song meant to him when he first heard it. It helped him get through his experience as a Multiracial Two Spirit Gay man living with HIV and like everyone else, also learning the lessons of love. “ Really, the album is the story of a phoenix rising from the ashes. I wanted the LGBTQ2S youth to be able to say this moment will pass and it will get better. The courage to love even after you’ve been hurt, even after experiencing intergenerational trauma “ said Enos. Clearly, Tony has so much to voice in this new album. “ In My community, often times LGBTQ, especially 2S are in need of resources. Instead we are given alcohol and sex “ said Enos. “ There needs to be a modality for healing for the growing up gay experience. Music is a modality for healing “ said Enos. Tony likes to lift people up and at the very core, he just wants equality for everyone.
Tony Enos' music is available on all digital music and streaming platforms
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by Marcy Angeles: Artist, Writer, Musician, Journalist & Public Speaker