1 min

Adrian Stimson’s gender bending Buffalo Boy takes aim at colonialism

The artist celebrates two-spirit identity on screen

Credit: Courtesy Buffalo Boy: Don’t Look East

For interdisciplinary artist Adrian Stimson, reviving understandings of what it means to be both Indigenous and two-spirit is at the forefront of his creative endeavours. An artist and member of the Siksika Nation, Stimson expresses this through an artistic persona he’s created called Buffalo Boy, a character that came about when Stimson was doing his master’s thesis.

“I was researching Buffalo Bill as well as two spirited history in the Americas. Suddenly, they merged and the campy “Indian” cowboy was born. I also was interested in the dichotomy of the Indian cowboy and come by it honestly; my grandfather was an Indian cowboy in the Calgary Stampede. Buffalo Boy then became this gender bending colonial-busting persona that tackled both historical and contemporary issues of colonialism,” says Stimson.

Walking down the streets of Venice dressed in fishnet stockings, a cowboy jacket and hat, and snapping a whip, Buffalo Boy embraces, celebrates and lets the identity of being Indigenous and two-spirit run free.

The 2018 Fairy Tales Queer Film Festival in Calgary will show Stimson’s short film Buffalo Boy: Don’t Look East as part of its Kinship and Closeness film package. Putting a focus on Indigenous two-spirit films, the package aims to encourage viewers to redefine borders within relationships.

Stimson’s work plays in the realm of creating and re-creating meanings: the meaning of love and what it once represented and encompassed to what it can mean in contemporary society.

“Perhaps in looking at the history of Indigenous peoples, especially that of the erasure and persecution of two-spirited peoples, audiences can come to know that being two-spirited in Indigenous cultures was once celebrated and honoured,” says Stimson about Buffalo Boy removing the stigma around being two-spirit that was instilled by colonial projects of the past.

But “even in the queer world there is still a need to share and evolve our understandings of each other,” he says.

“By sharing our stories we can learn that we have a lot more in common than we think and perhaps begin a process of opening up our hearts,” Stimson says. After all, healing begins with acknowledging the pain and suffering in not only ourselves, but in others as well if we are to truly build a world that celebrates love in all of its purest forms. And Buffalo Boy is charging forward with this mission dressed in leather and pearls.