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Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits Powwow (San Francisco) 2015

Posted By PowWow Articles February 11th, 2015 Last Updated on: January 19th, 2022

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Saturday February 7th 2015 was the 4th Annual Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits powwow in San Francisco. To understand the context of this powwow, one needs to have an understanding of the Indigenous cultural acceptance of an American Indian who is “Two Spirited. ” In over 130 North American tribes, those who are labeled as ‘Two-spirits” are said to have been born with both a male and female spirit, two spirits occupying one body. There can be male-bodied two spirits and female bodied two spirits. In American Indian culture, Two-Spirits were not shunned or demeaned and thought of as “sick” as in the majority of White or European culture, but were instead cast in roles thought to accentuate their gifts such as “Shaman, Conveyers of Stories and Song, Foretellers of Future, Matchmakers, special role-players in Sun Dance.” Two-Spirits were revered, placed in roles within the community that honored their differences as opposed to diminishing them. It was not uncommon for Male-bodied Two-Spirits to dress in Female regalia, or to participate in female dominated roles within the community such as cooking as well as being able to participate in Male activities such as male-only sweat lodge ceremonies.

The Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits community offers this statement in their powwow pamphlet.

“BAAITS exists to restore and recover the role of Two-Spirit people within the American Indian/First Nations community by creating forums for the cultural and artistic expression of Two-Spirit people.

BAAITS is a community-based volunteer organization offering culturally relevant activities for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Two-Spirit Native Americans, their family, and their friends. Two-Spirit refers to the commonly shared understanding among many Native American Tribes that some individuals manifest both masculine and feminine spiritual qualities. Modern American society identifies Two-Spirit people as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, or Inter-sex.”

 

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This powwow was filled with loving families and individuals who recognized that traditional American Indian view of Two-Spirits, and were there showing support for their loved ones. It was an experience unlike anything I have had before, and it was refreshing to release the predominant American/European view that being LGBT was something to be ashamed of and instead was something that made each LGBT individual special, and spiritually gifted.

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I was surrounded by a community that welcomed all, and embraced all with an understanding of something much more than this physical space.

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The shops within the powwow hosted items and clothing for all Natives, and I gathered some supplies I needed to finish my son’s medallion I have been working on for his 4th birthday. As a beginner at beading I was blown away when I approached a booth owned by Heidi and Dean Barlese, a brother and sister duo who were far more talented at their beadwork than I. Their medallions and earrings, barrettes and other traditional work were amazing.

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I met the beautiful Miss Montana Two-Spirits, she was regal, and I was enthralled by her presence.  I spent most of my time in the arena (and in line to get an Indian Taco), and was able to capture images of the Natives and guests attending the powwow. I was particularly drawn to the Aztec dancers and Tiny tots. I’m a mother of 2, so seeing the little ones, our future generations participating in our traditions always brings joy to my soul. It was an uplifting and positive experience, and I am excited to come back again next year. Please enjoy the rest of the photographs I took at this event.

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