Ma-Nee Chacaby’s Extraordinary Life and Autobiography

Ma-Nee Chacaby is a two-spirit Ojibwa-Cree elder. She was raised by her Cree grandmother in a remote Ojibwa community near Lake Nipigon, Ontario. A Two-Spirit Journey is Chacaby’s extraordinary account of her life as an Ojibwa-Cree lesbian. From her early, often harrowing memories of life and abuse in a remote community riven by poverty and alcoholism, Chacaby’s story is one of enduring and ultimately overcoming the social, economic, and health legacies of colonialism.

Chacaby writing in Thunder Bay

Chacaby writing in Thunder Bay, 1991

As a child, Chacaby learned spiritual and cultural traditions from her Cree grandmother and trapping, hunting, and bush survival skills from her Ojibwa stepfather. She also suffered physical and sexual abuse by different adults, and in her teen years became alcoholic herself. At twenty, Chacaby moved to Thunder Bay with her children to escape an abusive marriage. Abuse, compounded by racism, continued, but Chacaby found supports to help herself and others. Over the following decades, she achieved sobriety; trained and worked as an alcoholism counsellor; raised her children and fostered many others; learned to live with visual impairment; and came out as a lesbian.

In 2013, Chacaby led the first gay pride parade in Thunder Bay. Ma-Nee Chacaby has emerged from hardship grounded in faith, compassion, humour, and resilience. Her memoir provides unprecedented insights into the challenges still faced by many Indigenous people.

Two-Spirit Journey Chacaby COVERMa-Nee Chacaby will be discussing her new book A Two-Spirit Journey — The Autobiography of a Lesbian Ojibwa-Cree Elder at Lakehead University (University Centre Agora) on May 16 from 1-3:00 pm and at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery on May 17 from 7-8:30 pm.

A Two-Spirit Journey — The Autobiography of a Lesbian Ojibwa-Cree Elder is published by the University of Manitoba Press and will be available in May 2016.