Founded in 1998, Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits (BAAITS) exists to restore and recover the role of Two-Spirit people within the American Indian/First Nations community by creating a forum for the expression of the spiritual, cultural and artistic ways of Two-Spirit people. This community-based, volunteer organization offers culturally relevant activities to LGBTQ+ Native Americans, their families, and friends, including community gatherings, drag performances, Pride contingents, educational programming, and Traditional Art and Drumming.
According to the curators of The GLBT Historical Society’s 2019 exhibit “Two Spirit Voices: Returning to the Circle,” the term Two-Spirit gained popularity in the 1990s after indigenous community leaders offered it as a counterpoint to colonial terminology used by anthropologists and academics to signify practices of nonbinary gender and sexual orientation among the Native peoples of North America. Contemporary American society commonly identifies Two-Spirit people as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
BAAITS annual Powwow, held at Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture, is the biggest of its kind in the country. Now in its eleventh year, the Powwow is open to all and features performers in traditional Native American regalia, dancing, singing, drumming, and joyful celebration. On-site vendors also offer Native art and food, and free health screenings from Native American Health Center.
We recently attended Stanford University’s History in Community conference and enjoyed hearing from BAAITS Chair Jim Eagle, at who shared the history behind BAAITS and the Two-Spirit community in the context of how different Bay Area communities are documenting activism and social protest.