22 November 2019

Ribbon skirts explained

"Ribbon Skirts are not only a distinct fashion piece to the non-indigenous eye but are also a historical and traditional form of identity among native women. Skirts are worn not only in traditional ceremonies but now in political protests, the U.S. Congress, and more recently the Minnesota Governor’s office...

The skirt got its bearings in the late 18th centuries as relationships between the Great Lakes tribes and French settlers expanded, and more goods including ribbon were exchanged. Ojibwe clothing which was previously made of animal hide began being replaced by garments of wool and cotton with the traditional applique style of ribbon work you see today being worked in over time.

According to the Milwaukee Public Museum, “The first recorded instance of ribbon work appliquĂ© was on a Menominee wedding dress made in 1802. Ribbon work reached its peak in the last quarter of the 19th century, having moved out from its epicenter in the Great Lakes to several tribes in the Prairies, Plains, and Northeast. Though the materials used to make ribbon skirts are not native in origin, the method of applique done to create the folded looked of the ribbon has become a visual marker of identity for centuries.”..

Leech Lake Tribal College Instructor, Audrey Thayer says when it comes to skirts, people need to see them through two different lenses; a spiritual one and one that is political. In Ms. Thayers spiritual healing lodge, women often wear traditional ribbon skirts featuring colors sacred to the lodge and the tribe itself, often to identify themselves to the creator as a woman...

The ribbon skirt that we see today isn’t far off from what had been adapted in the past for ceremonies, but it has now gained new meaning as it reaches the floors of the US democratic system and a new status of symbolism of native pride. Newly elected Minnesota Lieutenant Governor and White Earth enrollee Peggy Flanagan has often been photographed wearing traditional regalia, even during her swearing in ceremony. Flanagan herself says the skirt is reflective of her identity and cultural background...

On the other end of the political spectrum lies the use and significance of ribbon skirts within social and indigenous movements. Both the 2016 Dakota Access Pipeline protests and the Missing Murdered Indigenous Women movement showcased the skirts' symbolism at the forefront of their causes."

Images (cropped for size and emphasis) and text from a "Part 1" article in Leech Lake News.  Part 2, about ribbon skirts in mainstream fashion, is pending.

1 comment:

  1. in the name, change the 'k' to an 'h' and you have what men wear.

    I-)

    ReplyDelete

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