|New co-chairs Ruth Villansene and Dakota Kyber with honorees Mike Thomas and Derek Smith, wearing their ceremonial blankets. Photo by Rink.
Two worthy leaders of the Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits (BAAITS) group received tributes from their fellow members on Jan. 29 at the LGBT Center. Chicksaw 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 intergeneration duo could take over the coordination of social and political activities. Thomas and Smith were given well-deserved lavish praise and luxurious ceremonial blankets, at a meeting that included a spiritual greeting, a craft class, and welcome refreshments. Thomasâ€™ 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 the LGBT Native Americans, and funds have been raised when they perform at the Powerhouse Bar and other venues.
Smithâ€™s partner of ten years, Lucius Bishop, was there, and he joined in when the group constructed drum sticks to encourage future drumming at events. 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, that 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 a sea shell, meant to reach out to a higher power, and as a bonding ritual. New co-chairs Apache Indian and Mexican Ruth Villasenor and Choctaw and 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. Villasenor was the greeter and Kyber was a server at the Native American AIDS Project Thanksgiving Dinner, which is just blocks from the LGBT Center, and both of the new co-chairs are high energy and resourceful, which is a good sign for the group in the years ahead.