Native Gays Celebrated at West Hollywood Intertribal Pow Wow
A diverse crowd of Native and non-Native people attended the Celebrating All Life and Creation Pow Wow in West Hollywood, California’s Plummer Park on June 28.
The one day intertribal pow wow was coordinated by the Red Circle Project, an outreach group serving Native American gay men, “two spirit” (gender-variant), and transgender individuals. Michelle Enfield, Diné, the project and pow wow coordinator said that the goal of the pow wow was not only to promote diversity and Native American culture within the greater Los Angeles area, but also to raise AIDS awareness within that same culture.
“In the Native community a lot of people still don’t talk about sex as often as I would like to talk about sex; and so this brings everybody together and it gives them an awareness,” Enfield told ICTMN.
The Red Circle Project was launched to help the gay Native community. “We have a 65 percent misclassification rate. That means when service providers are providing to individuals they see the color of their skin and they assume they are a different ethnicity than Native,” Enfield said.
And that’s where the Red Circle Project comes in; creating support groups and workshops for them, as well as home-grown curriculum tailored to Native experiences.
Shopping the Native stands with his boyfriend, Jesse Inostros was visiting the pow wow for the second year in a row. Although he lives near the park, Inostros was happy to see it filled, to see the community come together. “There’s a lot of emotion here,” Inostros said. “You can feel it. You can tell they put a lot of time and effort into [their regalia], you can tell it means a lot to them.”
Margot Perkins from Fullerton, California, takes her grandchildren to pow wows so they don’t forget their culture. Some of her grandchildren live on reservations, and those who live close by don’t always have access to the Native American community. “This is a relaxed pow wow,” Perkins, Comanche/Wichita, said while helping her grandchildren get ready for the grand entry. “We go to all the pow wows throughout the U.S. and these kinds of pow wows, outside reservations, you don’t have to do too much.”
Six Coyotes danced hard in the pow wow circle. The dancer finally had some relief when he finished, but he was quickly pulled off his chair to take pictures with pow wow goers.
“It’s one of the few pow wows I’ve been to that almost all the songs are inter-tribals, and the first pow wow I’ve been to where so many people of different sexual orientations and preferences come together,” Six Coyotes said.
Also enjoying the pow wow was northern traditional dancer Johnny Nieto of the Tule River Yokuts. A fan of inter-tribals, Nieto appreciated the sense of community within the event and how the dancers that participated came to dance and be with friends. “This one is a great community pow wow, no contest, just come out and enjoy yourself,” Nieto said. “I love inter-tribal pow wows because you know that the people are dancing for a purpose and not for money.”
Receiving a large ovation from the local folks as the Red Circle Project introduced her, West Hollywood City Council member Abbe Land thanked all those in attendance for bringing Native culture into her city and for supporting the pow wow in its fourth year. “The energy here is very special, I’ve watched this grow and that’s a really great feeling that we have a little part of making that happen,” Land said. “We are a city that celebrates diversity and people for who they are and we’re proud of it.”
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