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CNN features Native American dancers with ties to Southern Ute tribe

Two-spirit couple redefine traditional couples dance
A two-spirit couple with ties to the Southern Ute Indian Tribe is reshaping traditional powwow dances.

Sean Snyder, who is of Southern Ute and Navajo heritage, has been making history through dance, according to a recent CNN feature.

Snyder and his fiancée, Adrian Stevens, are breaking the mold of traditional couples routines at powwows – called sweetheart specials – by participating as a two-spirit couple. A recent photo feature, published by CNN on Feb. 3, shares some of the couple’s story.

“Their routines and matching regalia – each embellished with their own handmade beadwork – have brought them widespread attention,” said CNN’s Jacqui Palumbo in the story about the Native American couple redefining cultural norms.

Snyder and Stevens have been together for years and identify as two-spirit, which within North American Indigenous communities, refers to people who possess both masculine and feminine spirits, but it can also be used to represent LGBTQ+ Indigenous people more broadly, Palumbo said.

Synder could not be reached for comment for this story. Stevens is of Northern Ute, Shoshone-Bannock and San Carlos Apache heritage.

In 2017, the dancers were disqualified from a Sweetheart’s Special at the San Manual Band of Mission Indians powwow in California. The dancers registered as a man-woman couple – the only registration option – to be able to perform their routine, according to The Seminole Tribune.

Since then, the Nevada-based dancers have been able to dance as a couple at other powwows, ranking high in competitions along the way.

The CNN feature shares the couple’s story through photography by Tomas Karmelo Amaya. The couple, in full regalia, danced and posed in front of an overcast sky in Minnesota’s Prairie Island Indian Community.

Amaya called his images “visual medicine,” and spoke about the importance of visibility for the two-spirit community, according to the article.

The couple’s story has also been featured in Vogue, the PBS Short Film Festival and Salt Lake Magazine.


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