The San Francisco State University Pow Wow, held annually in the spring, set a bit of history on May 15th as the first non Two Spirit pow wow to include the Rainbow Gay Pride Flag.
According to this year’s Head Dancer, Aidan Dunn (Osage), “the SFSU Pow wow committee has decided to de-gender their dance categories. For instance, the category formerly known as “Women’s Fancy Shawl” will now be simply ‘Fancy Shawl’. Most people probably won’t notice this difference, because it won’t cause any big changes in the way the dance categories work–but inclusive language matters a lot, because it can be used to include or exclude,” said Dunn.
Dunn said that changing a few words would enable pow wow organizers to open the circle a little wider to embrace more community members.
“This allows pow wow dancers to dance in whatever category they are called to dance, even if it isn’t what we might expect for their gender. SFSU is taking a bold step toward making Two-Spirit, LGBTQ, and gender-nonconforming pow wow dancers feel welcome in the arena. The Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits (BAAITS) Pow wow took this step last year but, to my knowledge, there are no ‘straight’ powwows anywhere in the US or Canada that currently do this.”
The rainbow flag is used to represent gay pride at events and marches around the world. A mile-long rainbow flag was flown on the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riot, and was later cut into sections to be displayed proudly around the globe.
The different colors in the Rainbow Flag are meant to represent the diversity of the LGBTIQA community. The colors specifically represent life (red), healing (orange), sunlight (yellow), nature (green), harmony (blue), and spirit (purple/violet). The flag has also been adopted by Indigenous people of Andean descent to represent the legacy of Wiphala / the Incan Empire.
The inclusion of the Rainbow Flag in Grand Entry proceedings represents the inclusion of Two Spirits in the proceedings and that the circle welcomes all respectful gender expressions.
Roughly 10% of any population identifies as lesbian, gay, bi, transgender, intersex, queer or asexual (LGBTIQA+) and many Native cultures are now traditionally accepting their LGBTIQA+ or Two Spirit community members.
Additionally, the BAAITS pow wow, the first public LGBTIQA+ pow wow on Turtle Island, has been generating more and more success as early 3,500 dancers attended the festivities held at Fort Mason this past March.
Some family arbors at pow wows on the West Coast have displayed the flag as a sign of solidarity to the community or to identify LGBTIQA+ safe spaces. The University of Saskatchewan was the first to include the flag at a pow wow in Canada.
(The Two Spirit Flag Courtesy of BAAITS)