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"Pure love on the dance floor": celebrate the tradition of fringed dress

  1. Listening

    Celebrate the fringed dress

You can hear Mikah Whitecloud Hart coming from far away.

Mikah Whitecloud of the Red Lake Nation and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.
Mikah Whitecloud of the Red Lake Nation and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

It's a dancer with fringed dress that is part of a group of women parading in a subtle rhythm during pow-wows, rows and rows of small metal cones sewn like bells on their robes , sometimes from shoulders to hems.

"This unique sound, there is nothing like it," she said at the Great Powwow of the Thousand Lakes Celebrity Band on Friday night at Hinckley. She was one of dozens of women to meet, show off their work and dance.

Hart is a member of the Red Lake Band who lives in Oklahoma and travels the powwow circuit.

She sews her own cotton dresses and rolls her own jingles, in the traditional way – from Copenhagen's cork can lids.

"When it's just you and this drum, and hearing that – it's an adrenaline rush, it's heaven. It's … it's n & # 39; There is no other feeling that can describe it.It's just love.A pure love on the dancefloor.And I like that and J & # 39; love this style and I love where I come from and be Ojibway. "

These fringed dresses, and this feeling, are celebrated Saturday by Google, who commissioned one of his famous "Google Doodle" icons in honor of the Native American tradition – which has roots in Minnesota.

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In fact, the story of the fringed dress – both artisanal, dance and mythological – looks closer in a new exhibition of the Thousand Lakes Indian Museum of the Minnesota Historical Society. The exhibition opened in the spring and will continue until the autumn of 2020.

The fringed dress is in itself a cultural phenomenon. Its appearance and distinctiveness have become, like drums, almost synonymous with Amerindian ritual and celebration.

Adrienne Benjamin is one of the very first designers of fringed dresses. She teaches and takes orders for custom dresses – some with successive rows of shiny metal sewn tightly for a more intense, or more economical sound, for a more austere and traditional presence.

"When you really ask what makes a good dress, and over time, it is an expression not only of the culture of our people, but also of the artistic quality," she said. The cut of the dress, the fiber of its fabric, the setting up of the jingles can all speak at different times, different intentions.

The Jingles Dress dancers surround the powwow grounds of the Grand Hinckley Casino.
Dancers in jingle dress surround the pow wows of Grand Casino Hinckley at the grand entrance to the Powwow Thousand Lakes Band of Ojibwe.

Benjamin says some of the older examples are simply formal wear or plain cotton dresses. The new "from-scratch" versions have eliminated any link with tobacco boxes and use custom tinted jingles and high-tech synthetics, even neon colors.

The new exhibition on the history of dresses presented at the Indian Museum Mille Lacs presents four of Benjamin's creations, made in a pop-art colored fabric.

Brenda Child helped research and develop this exhibition. She is a professor from the University of Minnesota, born on the Red Lake Reserve, and former administrator of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Native Americans. Child is perhaps the world's leading authority on fringed dresses.

Which should not surprise. Although they are now part of Native American culture from Maine to California, it is evident that the fringed dress is practically used in the backyard of Child, within the Thousand Lakes band of Mille Lacs. Ojibwe – where tradition has been remembered and which has been part of the culture for decades.

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"We often hear the story of a little girl who got sick and whose father had a vision.After his vision, which concerned this first fringed dress, he gave the dress to his daughter and it has improved and it was kind of a miraculous thing, "Child said in a recent interview.

Child has focused his academic attention on the tale.

"When I was researching the history of tradition fringed dresses, I found that I could not find any photography in the United States or Canada, what we would call a fringed dress dating back to more than 1920, "she said. .

His conclusion: there were no dresses to take pictures at the time.

Nelda Kapishkowit, eldest, of the Wisconsin Menominee Nation.
Nelda Kapishkowit, an elder of the Wisconsin Menominee Nation, portrays a portrait in her Jingle dress at the pow-wow celebration of the Ojibwe Thousand Lakes Band.

She also knew the story of the 1918 flu pandemic, particularly devastating among Native Americans living around the Great Lakes. This is perhaps the origin of the story of the girl who became ill.

These three artifacts – family history, photos and the flu – show the origin of the dress that is not in the confines of the Aboriginal tradition, but probably around 1919, said Child. The new exhibition on the historical society celebrates the centenary of its probable genesis – although the exact date is probably never determined. Another Ojibwe Band, living in northwestern Ontario, around Whitefish Bay, has a similar history of origin.

Child stated that this indicated that history was not limited to moldy records and buried artifacts, but sometimes to the imprint of surprising circumstances.

And she said that it was a very lively story, noting that "the dance of fringed dress has always been a radical tradition".

She added that the appearance of the dress also coincided with the federal government's ban on ritual dance on Indian reservations in the 1920s. The sound of jingles and the steps of the dance that accompanies them. are acts of challenge and pride for Aboriginal women, said Child.

She added that the tradition continued to evolve and retained some of its reputation as a healing force, despite its origin in a period of tragedy and loss.

"You also see him emerging at some point, when natives are no longer supposed to do it," said Child. "But as the jingle dress has spread over the decades, you'd have an event, like Standing Rock, and somebody might say," huh, that's a new use from the tradition of jingle dancing. " I think what you are seeing is continuing to empower women in their communities today. "

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