Dr. Charlotte Loppie on “Pre-Contact Indigenous Sexualities” for CGSHE Speaker Series

September 27, 2019   |   Blog

The CGSHE Speaker Series was honoured to present Dr. Charlotte Loppie as Guest Speaker on Thursday, September 26. Dr. Loppie was the fifth speaker in our series of lunchtime talks about gender and sexual health, wellness, and equity, and she drew an impressive crowd with her talk on “Pre-Contact Indigenous Sexualities.” Dr. Loppie spoke about what influences and constrains sexual expression and experience, and some values that inform sexualities in Indigenous cultures. She suggested a holistic model for understanding sexualities’ physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual dimensions.

While, Dr. Loppie cautioned, there is no singular “Indigenous sexuality,” she noted that Indigenous sexualities differ from contemporary Western cultural sexuality which often shames sexual expression. “A true authentic sexuality is not shameful,” said Dr. Loppie, and “diversity is not shameful. We are of the land, and nature loves diversity.” She noted that while sexuality is regulated in some way in every culture—for example, some Indigenous cultures had and have rules around inter-clan marriage—respect for others’ autonomy is often highly valued in Indigenous cultures, and to impose on another’s autonomy in many pre-contact cultures would have been considered wrong. 

With sexual freedom, said Dr. Loppie, comes equity among genders. Pre-contact, gender identity and fluidity was not as rigid or binary as in contemporary Western culture, she said; or when it was, it didn’t create the same kind of inequities as it does here today. In addition, gender was not always the primary criteria when choosing a partner. No matter how the term Two-Spirit is defined, said Dr. Loppie, Two-Spirit people were not shamed or stigmatized. Neither would it have been considered inappropriate to share information with children about “sexuality, birth, and a natural experience of the world.” “Everybody had a really important role to play in family,” and “reproduction is an element of identity, but not the only one.”

Dr. Loppie left a discussion of colonization until the end because she wanted to “create a picture of how things were before talking about how things became in a deficit-focused way.” She discussed the stigmatization and shame around sex instilled in children at Residential Schools, where sexual abuse was also frequent. 

Today, Dr. Loppie sees youth and other Indigenous people leading a resurgence in many areas including sexual health and reconnecting with holistic views of sexual freedom and wellness. She said that “traditions are the new ‘modern’” as Western science “re-‘discovers’” the values that informed, and continue to inform, Indigenous sexualities. 

We are so grateful to Dr. Loppie for sharing her expertise and insight, and for making us laugh along the way. Please stay tuned for a video recording of the presentation and to hear about our next monthly CGSHE Speaker Series, October 24 at 1190 Hornby St.


Dr. Loppie is a Professor in the School of Public Health and Social Policy at the University of Victoria, and Director of the Centre for Indigenous Research and Community-Led Engagement (CIRCLE).