Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Two-Spirits Native American Tribute to Two Worthy Leaders

Ruth Villaseñor, Miko Thomas, Dakota Kyber, and Derek Smith

Two worthy leaders of the Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits (BAAITS) group received tributes from their fellow members on Jan. 29 at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center. Chickasaw Indian Miko Thomas, who performs in drag as the outrageous Landa Lakes, and Chippewa Indian Derek Smith were stepping aside as group co-chairs after four years so that an intergenerational duo could take over the coordination of social and political activities. Thomas and Smith were given lavish, well-deserved praise and luxurious ceremonial blankets at a meeting that included a spiritual greeting, a craft class, and welcome refreshments.

Miko Thomas receives his ceremonial blanket

Thomas’ partner was there, and he performs as Miso Hornay when in drag in the Native American drag troupe The Brush Arbor Gurlz. The troupe has given much-needed visibility to LGBT Native Americans and funds have been raised when they perform at the Powerhouse bar and other venues.

Derek Smith

Smith’s partner of ten years, Lucius Bishop, was there and joined in when the group constructed drum sticks to encourage future drumming at events.

Ruth Villaseñor leads the group in making drum sticks

Two-Spirits are described in the BAAITS brochure and website as a balancing of both genders, but then there are the ultra-masculine brute men and feminine women who favor pink clothing that are not featured in that brochure. BAAITS was inspired by Gay American Indians, which was founded by activists Barbara Cameron and Randy Burns in 1975. Gatherings are sponsored throughout the year and they draw large crowds of LGBT Native Americans and their friends.

The event began with a passing around of burning sage in an oyster shell, meant to reach out to a higher power, and as a bonding ritual. New co-chairs Apache Indian/Mexican Ruth Villaseñor and Choctaw/Cherokee Indian Dakota Kyber were introduced and they thanked Thomas and Smith throughout the afternoon for their attention to detail and time while coordinating the group. Villaseñor was the greeter and Kyber was a server at the Native American AIDS Project Thanksgiving Dinner, which is just blocks from the LGBT Center. Both of the new chairs are high energy and resourceful, which is a good sign for the group in the years ahead.

Ruth Villaseñor (right) and friend

Ruth Villaseñor, Dakota Kyber, Miko Thomas, and Derek Smith

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