A beautiful jingle dress was recently designed and created by Grade 4 and 5 students at the St. James Public School Biwaase’aa program in Thunder Bay.
“We’ve all taken strides and we’ve all put our energy into this little dress that we made over the last seven weeks,” said Calvin Redsky, Biwaase’aa outreach worker at St. James. “We got to learn about what goes on that dress, all the different things like the jingles, the ribbon, the bias tape, the thread.”
The students enjoyed working on the jingle dress, noting it was “a lot of fun.” They worked on the project for one hour on each Tuesday and Thursday over the seven-week period.
“They sewed it together, they cut it out together, they made the jingle dress strings together, they put the bias tape together, they put the jingles together,” Redsky said. “They did a lot of sewing and they really learnt a lot from what they have done.”
In addition to making the jingle dress, the students also learned about the teachings of the jingle dress, which originated from the dream of a father in Whitefish Bay who had prayed for help for his daughter, who was ill and showed no signs of recovery.
“Our Elders are always trying to make us to look for a way of life to live,” Redsky said. “I think that is what we are doing, we are passing on those teachings and those traditions and hopefully those children will grasp it and take charge in it as long as they walk.”
The students were taught a variety of teachings about the jingle dress, including its origins, what it is made of, the difference between traditional and contemporary jingle dresses and dances, how to care for a jingle dress and types of dances and songs for jingle dress dancers.
“We provided the healing and the medicines of the jingle dress,” Redsky said. “The girls got to understand that this dress is a healing dress.”
Redsky said the jingle dress project was “something different” for the students, noting that students had previously made hand drums and drumsticks.
“My goal was to have the kids come together and see how they could actually get along in doing something that represents our culture and our traditions as Anishinabe people,” Redsky said.
Redsky said the school is planning to hold a special ceremony in January 2014 to honour the jingle dress.
“(Our principal) is really proud of it,” Redsky said, adding that teachers have also been asking questions about the jingle dress. “I think that is what we are doing is building that relationship, building that bridge for people in the school.”
Redsky said the next step in the project is to feast the jingle dress.
“We want to give the proper teachings,” Redsky said. “The girls know they are supposed to wear dresses and skirts for ceremonies like this.”
The Biwaase’aa program operates from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at St. James by offering students in-school and after-school programs.
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