‘Targeted for violence’: the dangers LGBTQ+ Native Americans face

A recently released report found that Indigenous people in California have experienced sexual assault at high rates

The last time Fochik Hashtali* spoke with her close friend Poe Jackson, he was telling her about his plans to start a mental health group for transgender people in Slab City, a section of southern California known for its community of squatters.

It was a Saturday evening in April and the 21-year-old, who identified as Two Spirit, a term typically used to distinguish members of the Native LGBTQ+ community, had just moved to the area, according to Hashtali.

After a childhood in Tennessee spent dealing with poverty and bullying, he had traveled to the encampment in the hopes of being accepted for who he was, Hashtali explained. Jackson, a Wyandot descendent, told Hashtali that he wanted to help people heal, “do art, calm down, talk about trauma healthily”.

One month later, law enforcement recovered Jackson’s body from the Coachella Canal, near Slab City, and ruled his death a homicide.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Hashtali.

“I was like a train wreck. I cried myself to sleep that night”.

Related: ‘I want to show the pride’: photo essay of the Two Spirit Indigenous people

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