Basic Rights Oregon releases first tribal toolkit for LGBTQ equality

By Erin Rook, PQ Monthly
Se-ah-dom Edmo presented the Tribal Toolkit to the General Assembly of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians in Pendleton.

Basic Rights Oregon has expanded its racial justice work into the Native American community with a tribal toolkit to support LGBTQ equality and an “Our Families” video featuring the stories of LGBTQ and Two Spirit Native Americans and their families.

The materials — which were created in collaboration with the Western States Center, Native American Program of Legal Aid Services of Oregon, and Indigenous Ways of Knowing — were previewed Sept. 26 at the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians conference in Pendleton. BRO offered a sneak peek of both the film and a draft of “The Tribal Toolkit for Equality: Sample Tribal Codes to Support LGBT Justice in Indian Country,” a step-by-step guide for tribes seeking to increase the inclusiveness of their governmental institutions and programs.

“It was an amazing opportunity to connect with a broad range of Native and tribal leaders,” BRO Executive Director Jeana Frazzini says. “The stories of Native American LGBT [and] Two Spirit families was very well received, as was the tribal toolkit. This is a very positive beginning of what we hope will be a long and strong partnership.”

The toolkit covers a wide range of topics including employment benefits, family law, and non-discrimination policies, according to Se-ah-dom Edmo of Indigenous Ways of Knowing.

“The Tribal Equity Toolkit is significant because it is the first of its kind in the nation,” Edmo says. “Written specifically for tribes and tribal nations, it specifically addresses areas of concern that have historically been high priorities for tribes — keeping families together and strong, protection of all tribal citizens, equity and justice and decolonization.”

The toolkit was warmly received at the convention, according to Edmo. Four tribal leaders — from Quinault Indian Reservation, Swinnomish Indian Community, Klamath Tribes, and the Makah Tribe — thanked BRO from the floor following the presentation. Nearly 50 elected tribal leaders pledged their support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in their tribal communities and explicitly asked for more information about the toolkit.

“Personally and professionally, I will remember that moment in my life as one of the most inspirational, and this work as my proudest accomplishment in my career thus far,” Edmo says.

The Native American LGBT/Two Spirits “Our Families” video will premiere at 6 p.m. on Nov. 12 at the Native American Rehabilitation Association of the Northwest, Inc. (NARA), and will include a screening, a panel discussion, and refreshments.

“The official event will start with a traditional Native American benediction from a respected elder,” says Kodey Park Bambino, racial justice and alliance building organizer for BRO. “Speakers from Basic Rights Oregon and NARA will discuss the significance of this intersectional work, the uniqueness of the video, and the ways in which Two Spirit people will continue to play a central role in this work.”

A panel discussion will follow the presentation during which audience members can ask questions. To RSVP, contact Bambino at