Peter Dakota Spencer-McElhatton is a trainer, organizer, and performance artist living in Portland, Oregon/Chinook Territory, where they were born and raised. Their family is from North Dakota and Alabama. Peter deepened their understanding of oppression and how to dismantle it through Theatre of the Oppressed, which they began using in 2009. Since then they have used Theatre of the Oppressed to translate community desires and needs into just policies with thousands of audiences and communities. They have roots in environmental justice, trans and queer justice, and Indigenous communities.
Peter began organizing around justice for trans communities, trans communities of color, and two spirit communities. At Basic Rights Oregon, he organized with other trans and two spirit people for health care, immigrant rights, and tribal adoption of ordinances that affirm two spirit people. Peter co-presented findings from a community survey of tribal communities’ beliefs and histories of two spirit people at Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians in 2015, and helped produce the Our Families video. They see training and facilitation as a means to build visions for just worlds that we can then begin to create right now. They have also worked on multiple statewide ballot measures, including Freedom to Marry campaigns in Maine, Washington, and Oregon.
Peter is also a member of the Indigenous Peoples Power Project (IP3), and believer in the power of direct action ability to shift power imbalances. They love helping communities define direct action for themselves, resurfacing legacies of resistance, and helping people use those tools for change. They have built their skills for teaching and mobilizing through Indigenous movements for environmental justice, and helping organizations become active allies to Indigenous communities. They have worked with Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, and more.
Peter is a mixed-race person of Oglala Lakota, Roma, Jewish, and English ancestry. Peter holds his ancestral legacies with great hope for the bridges that can be built through accountability and love. They are two-spirit, trans, genderqueer, and more! They also identify as having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and as someone with chronic anxiety.