Faces painted with rainbows and the sound of drums and laughter filled the Portland State University’s Native American Student Cultural Center last week during The Native American Rehabilitation Association’s inaugural Wacamyos Pride Celebration.

Wacamyos means “rainbow” in Nimiipuu, the Indigenous name for the Nez Perce Tribe. NARA launched the event to honor and celebrate Indigiqueer joy.

Community members gathered for an afternoon of singing, dancing and food to honor Two Spirit people and to celebrate four honoree artists for the work they do in the Two Spirit community. The honorees included activist and storyteller Lukas Soto, behavioral health scientist Dr. Matthew Town, artist and activist Asa Wright and Tanya Blackhorse, an artist and business leader.

Honoree Asa Wright, who identifies as a trans queer Two Spirit, is an enrolled member of the Klamath Tribes. He is the founder of the Portland Two Spirit Society and an artist fluent in a variety of mediums, from painting, screen printing and graphic design to beadwork and weaving.

“Seeing things like this in the community really makes me proud,” Wright said. “Seeing all these different organizations who have been foundational in the community like NARA and NAYA, like NARA having their own Two Spirit groups, makes me so happy and so excited.”

Michele Pinkham, housing specialist at The Native American Rehabilitation Association of the Northwest (NARA) shakes hands with honoree Dr. Matthew Town. During this time, everyone at the event lined up to shake the honorees’ hands and congratulate them – and also wave at the virtual guest. Pinkham’s smile mirrors the energy that flowed through the space. (Photo by Carrie Johnson / Underscore News)

A family of four adorned with an array of colors and jewelry attended NARA NW’s First Wacamyos Pride Celebration. Various members of the family wore a hummingbird necklace, long earrings, a necklace of green stones and pink leopard cat ears. A baby with gentle eyes refused to let go of a pacifier. Left to right: Ximena, Indra, Carlos, Nirvana (Photo by Carrie Johnson / Underscore News)

Dr. Matthew Town, citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, descendent of Yakama and Cowlitz nations, is a behavioral health scientist who advocates for Two Spirit communities. “There’s a lot of discussion around some of the negative things that have happened to individuals in the community but I really focus on today’s pride and pride as medicine, and as good medicine,” Town said. (Photo by Carrie Johnson / Underscore News)

Four young dancers clothed with ankle length black dresses and flowing, flower designed tops. Their long hair was tied back with equally beautiful flowers. Barefoot and light, they moved gracefully across the floor like water and air. (Photo by Carrie Johnson / Underscore News)

An artist at the event delicately painted butterflies and rainbows on the faces of smiling children. Multiple vendors sold merchandise, from art prints to T-shirts and jewelry that attendees could browse. The vendors shared the theme of pride and proud representation. (Photo by Carrie Johnson / Underscore News)

Asa Wright, Klamath, Modoc, Yahooskin, is a visual artist, designer, and activist who has a strong desire for his family to be connected to the community. As founder of the Portland Two Spirit Society, Wright says he never wanted to be the face and voice of the organization. “I just wanted to be a part of a community,” Wright said. “But right after we started, I started getting calls to be a guest speaker at all these conferences in the Pacific Northwest to talk about what is Two Spirit, what does it mean, how do we support our youth and how do we support adults.” (Photo by Carrie Johnson / Underscore News)

Through the inviting open doors and in the warm space of the student center, on a table to the left, was a bucket of brightly colored woven bracelets, pamphlets about NARA, bios displayed for the event’s 2023 honorees, and buttons and stickers featuring the many designs of artist and honoree Tanya Blackhorse. (Photo by Carrie Johnson / Underscore News)

Two drum groups provided cultural music. Both older and younger singers and drummers gathered in the drummers’ circles. (Photo by Carrie Johnson / Underscore News)

Honoree Lukas Soto, Ojibwe and Mapuche, attended the celebration via Zoom. Soto is an activist focused on equity, justice and healing centered work. They also serve on the Oregon Alliance to Prevent Suicide General Advisory Committee. (Photo by Carrie Johnson / Underscore News)

The celebration was also the first fundraising effort for next year’s Delta Park Powwow, organized by The Bow and Arrow Culture Club, whose president Sande Bea Allman helped with cooking and food preparations. Attendees enjoyed golden fry bread with whipped cream and strawberries, a delicious treat to celebrate an even sweeter event. (Photo by Carrie Johnson / Underscore News)

Honorees shake hands with community members during an honor song. (Photo by Carrie Johnson / Underscore News)

Lead photo: Tanya Blackhorse, Nuche and Dine, is the CEO of One Native Love and TBlackhorse Designs. Her artwork and logos are on display at tribal functions and for NARA. To give back to her community, Blackhorse uses her personal journey to share knowledge about change and recovery. “Why is it important for me to be here? My family! My partner, my children, the community, the Native community to show up. It’s really more for me to be a part of my community and be there to represent my family. The biggest part is my family and our sons.” (Photo by Carrie Johnson / Underscore News)

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2023 Indigenous Journalism FellowCarrie Johnson is Chickasaw and Pawnee from southern Oklahoma. A senior at Austin College, she is double majoring in English and Media Studies. She has been a fellow for...