First ever Pride event celebrates gender fluid identities in Las Vegas' Indigenous community
For more than 20 years, June has been identified as Pride Month, a month of celebration and recognition of the fight against discrimination by those in the LGBTQ+ community.
But this was the first time that month included a festival for Indigenous LGBTQ+ people in Southern Nevada.
The IndigiPride festival took place at the Las Vegas Indian Center last Friday. Attendees were treated to musical and spoken word performances, and had access to resources regarding sexual health and civil liberties.
The center buzzed with many of the things you’d see at a typical Pride event throughout the month of June. Vendors, musicians and attendees all enjoy performances, speakers and events.
For many of the people who came to experience IndigiPride, like Vincent, the co-founder of Ugly Boys Art Group, it’s an opportunity for the Indigenous community to come together under the banner of Pride.
“I don't think you could put a value on it,” he said. “The amount of support … is unlike any other community that I've seen around. The art community really thrives and it comes through at events like this. With this being the only Indigenous-specific event like this that I've heard of, even in other states, I think it speaks volumes to what the Indigenous community is able to do as a whole in Las Vegas. I think it's excellent what they're doing.”
Many attendees also expressed that the event was an opportunity to offer support during what they consider to be a difficult time.
Last week, the Supreme Court’s Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta decision, which allowed states to intervene in tribal court cases involving non-Native offenders, has left many in the Indigenous community uncertain.
For people like Elaine, a beadwork artist from Navajo Nation, it’s time to discuss sovereignty and solidarity.
“I feel like Indigenous and Indigenous queer and Two Spirited are not wrapped up in the same, but they all experienced discrimination, and it's hard for them to hold on jobs, it's hard for them to have the same that our ancestors fought for in treaties,” she said.
For many at times like these, the Indigenous experience in America can be painful.
Yesenia Moya Garay, a poet from Las Vegas, shared their perspective with the audience in IndigiPride during a performance:
“Feeling pain and hunger, my memories lost, my history is rewritten. I am because I am. Feelings of loss and grief. My father's arms protect my mother's words, ‘bless.’ I am because I am. Feeling like I'm finally hurting. My love moves mountains, my anger shakes planets. I am because I am.”
Yesenia Castro was one of the organizers of the event. She said they held the event simply because there was a lack of representation within larger Pride communities.
“We wanted to have a space within Las Vegas where we can all be in the community together and support one another, whether it's through patronage of local businesses who are queer-led, or just being here and supporting one another through art,” Castro said.
There are other Two Spirit events in the country. Two Spirit, she said, is “an umbrella term for LGBT people who are Indigenous.” There’s the Two Spirit Pow Wow in Phoenix, but nothing like that in Nevada.
“That way we can talk about the discrepancies that there are during the month of Pride for Indigenous people who are part of the queer community that don't … often get to be on the forefront of Pride,” she said.
She said they are already talking about plans for the event next year.
Yesenia Castro, organizer, Las Vegas Indian Center