OCTOBER 28, 2021 -- The ribbon skirt has been worn for centuries by Indigenous women. The original product would have been made from hides and then a design application would have been done with natural paint. As time passed, the European traders brought with them silk ribbon and cotton calico fabric to trade for furs. These trades then changed the design and look of ribbons skirts.
Ribbon skirts are more than a fashion piece to add to your wardrobe. When a woman puts on a ribbon skirt, she is telling Mother Earth who she is. The length of the skirt is also important. As a woman walks on the back of Mother Earth with her ribbon skirt on, the bottom of the skirt touches the medicine and tells Mother Earth who she is. The skirt is a symbol of a woman and represents resilience, personal style, social issues, and can be used in payment to an individual.
Ribbon shirts for men went through the same type of evolution in design. Prior to European contact, the shirts were made from animal hides and decorated with brooches, ermine skins, hair and paint.
Ribbon skirt and shirt sewing sessions were held for Albert Community School staff on September 20th and 21st. This cross-cultural event brought the staff together, and they were very supportive of each other. Staff were very interested in each other’s choices of material, colour of ribbons, and number of ribbons that would be sewn on the material. The choices showcased each person’s sense of style and personality.
With many hours after school and during early mornings, the skirts and shirts were completed on time. There was a new sense of knowing one other and an acknowledgement of greater cultural understanding amongst those who participated!
The staff at Judge Bryant School had the wonderful opportunity to experience an aspect of Indigenous ceremony first hand as they created ribbon skirts and shirts on the September 24th system-wide professional development day. This was led by Vanéa Cyr, Supervisor of Indigenous Education.
Vanéa spoke about the importance of the ribbon skirt and shirt, as well as the difference between cultural appropriation and true cultural appreciation. The Judge Bryant staff had the experience of acquiring a new skill, and going through the stages of fear, acceptance and celebration that came with learning to sew.
The staff are grateful to Vanéa for sharing her wisdom and talent and to Kim Bergey Kaip at F.W. Johnson Collegiate for the loan of the sewing machines, which made this day possible!