Native American Heritage Month: Reclaiming
and Celebrating Two-Spirit Experience   
by Nalini Elias

November is observed across the United States as Native American Heritage Month. In this interview with History Happens, GLBT Historical Society board member J. Miko Thomas offers perspectives on the importance of Two-Spirit heritage for both LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ people. "Two Spirit" is a notion shared among many Native American tribes that describes individuals who feel they naturally manifest both masculine and feminine spiritual qualities.

Thomas is a former co-chair of Bay Area American Indian Two Spirits,
an organization committed to activism and service to Two-Spirit and ally communities of the Bay Area . Thomas first became involved with LGBTQ and Native American organizing at the University of Oklahoma, then served in the U.S. Navy before settling in San Francisco. A Chickasaw writer, musician, artist and activist, Thomas is renowned for performing as the larger-than-life Landa Lakes. Among the honors Thomas has received are the New York Fresh Fruit Festival Performance Award and the KQED LGBT Local Hero Award.
 
What are some of the essential messages of Native American Heritage Month?
 
A Native identity comes from culture. It's not just the genealogical fabric and the stories that you are told; it's a living, breathing, vibrant community. We have survived for half a millennium against the odds of genocide, diseases unknown to us and oppression -- but we are still resilient.
 
Why does Two-Spirit history matter for both LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ people?
 
Two-Spirit history is important for both LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ people because it gives us a sense that our ancestors respected all members of the community. For many Native people growing up, they can be unaware of the history that has existed for us. Learning about this history gives us a feeling of connectedness.  
 
For non-Natives, Two-Spirit history informs them that LGBTQ people have existed here before what they think of as the start of gay history with the Stonewall Riots in 1969. And maybe it will inspire them to look not only into the history of Natives, but also into the tapestry of the many gay rights pioneers that were queer before it was "cool."
 
How can Two-Spirit histories be acknowledged and preserved for future generations?
 
The GLBT Historical Society and the community at large can help support Two-Spirit histories by giving us space. So many times, Native people are overlooked except when it comes to saying a prayer. There is more substance to us than just our spiritual side. The analogy that we want a space at the table is only a part of it; we also want to be heard.  
 
I think people are surprised to learn that Native people had cultures that were accepting of Two Spirits because they think of Natives only in terms of the two-dimensional characters in cowboy movies. They're missing the real meat of our culture, which says that everyone has a place and everyone is welcome.
 
Nalini Elias serves as program manager for the GLBT Historical Society.
 
NOTE: In collaboration with Bay Area American Indian Two Spirits, the GLBT Historical Society has organized a series of programs focused on the Two-Spirit experience. For the full list, see Upcoming Events below. 
FromEDFrom the Staff
Vision 2020: Creating a New LGBTQ Museum
by Terry Beswick      
 
As a reader of History Happens, you've no doubt noticed that we've been pretty busy  over the last couple years at the GLBT Historical Society, with lots of important acquisitions, exhibitions and public programs. We ended 2017 strong (check out our annual report here), and I'm equally proud of all that we've been able to achieve so far this year.
 
In January, we kicked off our Five-Year Strategic Plan for 2018-2022, which lays out some fairly ambitious but necessary goals to guide us in our work. A central one: establishing a much-expanded permanent museum, archives and public history center -- a world-class, cutting-edge institution that will build on the success of our current small museum in the Castro, fully engage our audiences and do justice to the incredibly rich and diverse stories of the LGBTQ past.  
 
In recent months, we've been deeply gratified to win strong financial support for our museum planning from the California Natural Resources Agency and the San Francisco Arts Commission. We look forward to using these funds to explore the best options for establishing our New Museum of LGBTQ History and Culture in San Francisco.
 
We're also grateful to the core supporters who have stepped up to embrace our vision for growth. Early in October, we had a great turnout at our fabulous annual gala, where we announced a $50,000 matching challenge with pledges from Emily Rosenberg and Darlene deManincor, Al Baum and Robert Holgate, Jason Tester and Sasha Aiken, the Bob Ross Foundation and the Excelerate Foundation.
 
Donate Now to Double Your Gift

The support from these generous donors means that any amount you donate to our Vision 2020 campaign by December 31, 2018, will be matched dollar for dollar, doubling the impact of your gift. Through this matching challenge, we hope to raise $100,000 not only to continue our critical work of collecting, preserving and sharing LGBTQ history and culture, but also to prepare for launching a capital campaign for the new museum.  
 
Every day, we are deeply touched by the faces of the visitors from around the world to our current museum and archives. It's a profound honor to share with them the stories of their forebears in the struggle for equality and to hear how these stories have affected and inspired them, giving them the courage to be who they are and to strive to reach their full potential in their communities.  
 
This giving season, I trust you will donate generously to the GLBT Historical Society's Vision 2020 fund. Your gift will make a difference for LGBTQ people and our allies today and for generations to come. Every dollar counts as we work towards the day when we will open the doors of the first full-scale museum of LGBTQ history and culture anywhere in North America. To make your year-end donation now, click here
 
Terry Beswick is executive director of the GLBT Historical Society. 
ArchivesIn the Archives
Finding Harvey Milk at the Historical Society
by Mark Sawchuk     
 
This month marks the 40th anniversary of the deaths of Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone, who were assassinated in San Francisco City Hall on November 27, 1978. Our archives include significant materials documenting Milk, who was the first openly gay elected official in California and one of the first in the United States.

Our largest single Milk-related holding is the Harvey Milk and Scott Smith Collection, which occupies 15 cartons and eight oversize boxes. Complementing the Milk papers held by the San Francisco Public Library, this collection includes objects and ephemera relating to Milk's business, Castro Camera; his campaigns; and his assassination. The contents are often surprising, ranging from a campy plastic "Milky the Cow" toy to awards, coffee mugs and Milk's dining-room table. The most moving artifact is currently on display at the GLBT History Museum: the suit Milk was wearing at the moment of his death. 

Materials in More Than 20 Collections 
 
The Milk-Smith collection is only a starting point. Entering the search term "Harvey Milk" into our online catalog reveals more than 20 other collections that include materials related to Milk. The Harvey Milk Gay Democratic Club Records, for example, document an organization co-founded by Milk in 1976. In our general artifacts collection, one of the more poignant and unusual objects, acquired in 2014, is a slab of concrete from the sidewalk on Castro Street; dating to 1983, it bears the graffito "Harvey Milk Lives."

Our archives also hold historic video and sound recordings documenting Milk's life and work. The Daniel A. Smith (Queer Blue Light) Videotapes include an interview with Milk conducted in front of Castro Camera during the 1976 Castro Street Fair. Randy Alfred's "The Gay Life" radio show, which ran for eleven years starting in 1973, features numerous programs with Milk-related content, including a thirty-minute interview with Milk from 1977; you can listen to the programs online via our Gayback Machine.

Readers interested in more extensive coverage of Milk's life and death also can consult the newly digitized back issues of the Bay Area Reporter, now available through our website: click here. Together, these materials help paint a nuanced portrait of a complicated man dedicated to social justice and to active community life.

If you own archival materials or artifacts related Harvey Milk, please keep the GLBT Historical Society in mind as a possible home. For information on donating materials, contact assistant archivist Patricia Delara at patricia@glbthistory.org.
 
Mark Sawchuk is the communications manager for the GLBT Historical Society. 
UpcomingEventsUpcoming Events
Film, Performance & Discussion
The Indian Is Still Alive: Two-Spirit History
Thursday, November 1              
7:00-9:00 PM 
The GLBT History Museum 
4127 18th St., San Francisco
$5.00  |  Free for members    
 
An evening of music and history with the Bay Area American Indian Two Spirits  (BAAITS) drum group, including a screening of the documentary short The Indian is Still Alive and the Indian Knows the Songs directed by BAAITS drum member Susana Caceres, followed by songs by the BAAITS drum group and an audience discussion. The evening brings together arts, music, dance, culture and traditions to help educate natives, nonnatives and all LGBTQ people. Cosponsored by BAAITS. Purchase tickets here
Two-Spirit Story Time
Reading Native American Tales for Children
Saturday, November 3              
2:00-4:00 PM 
The GLBT History Museum 
4127 18th St., San Francisco
Regular Museum Admission:
$5.00 (general); $3.00 (students) 
 
An afternoon of story time for children presented by members of  Bay Area American Indian Two Spirits to create visibility for LGBTQ Native peoples and to celebrate the diversity of genders, ethnicities and cultures in the Bay Area. Landa Lakes will read 47,000 Beads, a book about Two Spirit acceptance written by Koja Adeyoha and Angel Adeyoha. Ruth Villasenor will read Rainbow Crow: A Lenape Tale, a Native American legend written by Nancy Van Laan that symbolizes the values of selflessness and service to the community. Reserve free tickets here.
World Premiere
5B: A New Documentary on San Francisco AIDS History
Sunday, November 4              
7:30 PM 
Castro Theatre  
429 Castro St., San Francisco 
In the mid-1980s, a ward on the fifth floor of San Francisco General Hospital became the first in the country designed specifically to deal with AIDS patients. Nursing on the ward emphasized holistic well-being, constituting a small miracle in the midst of a devastating crisis and panic. The new documentary 5B tells this story through first-person testimony of patients, their loved ones and hospital staff who volunteered to work on the ward, resulting in a bittersweet and moving celebration of quiet heroes worthy of remembrance and renewed recognition. Presented by SFFILM as the closing night of its Doc Stories festival; cosponsored by the GLBT Historical Society. Purchase tickets here
Author Event
Harvey Milk: American Icon With Lillian Faderman
Tuesday, November 6               
6:00-7:30 PM 
James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center
San Francisco Public Library
100 Larkin St., San Francisco  
Free Admission 
   
Harvey Milk -- eloquent, charismatic and a smart-aleck -- was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977, but he hadn't even served a full year in office when he was assassinated by a homophobic fellow supervisor. Milk has become arguably the most famous gay man in modern American history. His death made headlines 40 years ago, but what did he accomplish during his life that explains his continued importance? Renowned LGBTQ historian Lillian Faderman will address this and other questions as she presents her new book, Harvey Milk: His Lives and Death, published by Yale University Press as part of its Jewish Lives series. Presented by the James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center of the San Francisco Public Library; cosponsored by the GLBT Historical Society. For more information, visit the Hormel Center web page
Movie Night
Evoking Two-Spirit Experience on Screen
Thursday, November 8                 
7:00-9:00 p.m. 
The GLBT History Museum 
4127 18th St., San Francisco
$5.00 
Free for members
 
An evening of short films created by Two Spirit people offer insight into their lives and their spirituality. Most of the films were produced through the Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project. A discussion with the filmmakers follows the screening.
 
Journey to the Drum (2009); 4 minutes. Filmmaker: Phoenix Lara. A short digital story about Phoenix Lara sending out a call to the Creator and their journey to the drum as a Two-Spirit person.
 
Renacimiento de una Bruja (2008); 9 minutes. Filmmaker: Zemaya. Many years after a Two-Spirit Xicana woman raised in the city experiences a spiritual awakening that connects her more deeply with her ancestors, she is guided to live on a country hilltop.

Traditional Indigenous Values (2009); 10 minutes. Filmmaker: Ruth Villasenor. The dissonant frequencies of colonization and Proposition 8 spark new thinking. 
 
Tuupash (2018); 5 minutes. Filmmaker: L. Frank Manriquez. Native American song and meaning glow through a looming sky and give birth to resilience.

Two Spirits Belonging (2005); 10 minutes. Filmmaker: Rope Wolf. Spiritual connections abound throughout the Bay Area urban reservation. 
 
Cosponsored by Bay Area American Indian Two Spirits.
Purchase tickets here.
Community Forum
Fighting Back: Harvey Milk's Living Legacy
Wednesday, November 28                 
7:00-9:00 PM 
The GLBT History Museum 
4127 18th St., San Francisco  
Free Tickets  |  $5.00 Donation Welcome

The latest in our monthly "Fighting Back" series exploring contemporary queer issues in a historical context, this community forum will will highlight the living legacy of Harvey Milk and how it continues to inspire progressive, coalition-based political and electoral organizing in San Francisco and beyond. Commemorating the 40th anniversary of the assassinations of Harvey Milk and ally Mayor George Moscone on November 27, 1978, a panel of historians, veteran organizers and young activists will assess how the events of 1978 affected the progressive movement in the city and how Milk's example continues to inspire work for positive change today. Cosponsored by the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club. Reserve your free ticket here
Video Showing & Discussion
Listen Up! Voices of AIDS Activism
Thursday, November 29              
7:00-9:00 PM 
The GLBT History Museum 
4127 18th St., San Francisco
 
The first public showing of video interviews from our ongoing San Francisco ACT UP Oral History Project documenting the history of direct-action AIDS activism in the Bay Area. The full videos will eventually be made available to researchers and will form the basis of an exhibition at the GLBT History Museum, providing new insights into the contributions of activists as LGBTQ people and people with AIDS fought against the epidemic and the lethally slow response of the government. Current project manager Eric Sneathen and veterans of ACT UP will lead a discussion after the video program. Purchase tickets here.
VisitVisit Us    
MUSEUM
Exhibitions & Programs
4127 18th St.
San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 621-1107
Monday - Saturday: 11:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Sunday: Noon - 5:00 PM

Closed for the Thanksgiving Holiday:
Thursday, November 23, and Friday, November 24

ARCHIVES
Collections & Research Center
989 Market St., Lower Level
San Francisco, CA 94103-1708
(415) 777-5455
www.glbthistory.org/archives 

Call to schedule a research appointment.

CREDITS. FEATURE: Photo by Jose Guzman Colon; used with permission. FROM THE STAFF: Photo of Terry Beswick by Gareth Gooch. IN THE ARCHIVES: Screen capture from a video interview with Harvey Milk at the 1976 Castro Street Fair; Daniel A. Smith (Queer Blue Light) Videotapes, GLBT Historical Society. UPCOMING EVENTS. The Indian is Still Alive: BAAITS drum group performing at the GLBT History Museum; photo by Gerard Koskovich. Reading Two-Spirit Tales: Detail of the cover of 47,000 Beads by Koja Adeyoha and Angel Adeyoha. 5B documentary: Photo courtesy SFFILM. Author event with Lillian Faderman: Harvey Milk at the 1978 Gay Freedom Day Parade in San Francisco; photo by Crawford Barton, GLBT Historical Society. Evoking Two-Spirit Experience: Screen capture from Tuupash; courtesy of BAAITS. Fighting Back: Harvey Milk speaking at the 1978 Gay Freedom Day Parade in San Francsico; photo by Marie Ueda, GLBT Historical Society. Listen Up: ACT UP/San Francisco protest (1988); photo by Marc Geller, used with permission. 

Editor:
Gerard Koskovich       Design: PEPE Creatives

 
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