HUMBLE STEPS: ON LEARNING TO MAKE POW WOW REGALIA & BECOMING A SPONSOR

It began years ago, this far-off, forbidden dream that I would live a life steeped in the ways of my people. Now, as I scroll through image after image from this past weekend, a continued awakening rises from a deep, dark place of confusion and hurt that I had buried (unsuccessfully), of so long.

A new kind of happiness has centred itself into my life; one that can only come from living the good life and the realization that finally, finally I am on that road. 

Though I may be in some initial and some secondary stages of learning the ways of my ancestors; I don’t have to look very far for a new perspective. I continue to learn through my children in providing them the culture, experiences, ceremony and traditions that I did not have. Attending local Pow Wows and feeling/hearing the beat of the drum isn’t as new (to myself or my children), as my introduction to the Midewiwin Lodge; however this year was truly a milestone achievement.

I finally got the courage to ask a friend to introduce me to the traditional Anishinaabe art-form that is making Pow Wow regalia for my little ones. They both love to dance (most kids do, right?) and it was the next natural step. My instincts were right. They were ready and it was adorable/beautiful. There wasn’t enough time to make regalia for them both and since my friend had been making regalia for her own son for years, she kindly lent us one of his earlier dance ensembles.

While there are many traditional and ceremonial aspects to do with constructing and blessing Pow Wow regalia, of which I am still learning – the visual display and creative process alone is an experience in and of itself. I decided I wanted to make an Ode’ imin (ojibwe for strawberry), themed jingle dress for Abby. It’s her favourite fruit and symbolizes her fresh foray into Pow Wow dancing as a tiny tot. (Next year I’ll be making both of their regalias to mirror the meaning of their spirit names.)

It all began with the cones, which are used to create the rows of jingles.

While I was on jingle duty ( I had 4 deep V rows to do, 2 for the front of the dress and 2 for the back), my friend was on dress detail. We used a dress that I got Abby when we were in Mexico as the outline, a loose guide-like pattern to follow as it closely resembled the tiny tot jingle dresses I’ve seen.

This is where the Ode’ imin applique works comes in, all taught to me in a haze of tired love and appreciation. It’s not like we were recreating the wheel on anything, I’ve done similar craft work before and for a long time. Below were to be the leaves and the vines trailing off the juicy red Ode’ imin.

Over the years, as Abby connects to the dance – she will learn about the responsibilities she has that come with being a jingle dancer. It will hopefully be more about healing and the drum and skill, rather than ego. Right now, though – it’s all about joy for her, and for me in watching her naturally connect with the jingles. She made a bit of a fuss at first in putting it on and then happily wore it all afternoon, often asking when it was her turn to enter into the dance circle, again and again.

This is Abby and Wyndham in their gorgeous Pow Wow regalia just before we left. If you’d like to see more crazy cute pictures (little posers! Native pride!), visit me over on Babble.

We made it big enough to fit for next year and over the next while I’m going to learn how to do traditional Native beading to finish off all of the edges of the applique work and to surround the little mirrors. I’m also going to make matching Ode’ imin medicine bag, barrettes, hair ties,  bracelets, choker with a neckdrop, a hairpiece/headband, leggings, and moccasins. Lots of projects on top of Wyndham’s hoop dance regalia to keep me busy over the long winter!

As if Saturday weren’t busy enough we had the honour and privilege of attending a full afternoon of Midewiwin ceremony to witness the adoption into a family and clan of one dear friend and the Naming Ceremony of another dear friend, a young girl in our circle. A young girl whom I love very much, who reminds me of myself so much during my youth that our connection – especially as of late – is this quiet, un-forced, lovely thing.

She surprised me and brought me to tears on Sunday by asking me to be her sponsor. One of the most humbling moments in my life, where I get to step up in this traditional way for a youth in our circle, in the lodge. Aren’t they beautiful?

Until the next. XOXO 

11 Comments

  1. Reply
    Sara 29/08/2013

    Wow! The dresses are so beautiful! And I love the Idea of a dress that jingles! And your kids are just tooooo gorgeous!

    (BTW, I’m sure you didn’t mean “fiend”, but it’s a little disturbing! 😉 )

    • Reply
      Selena 29/08/2013

      Ha! Thanks for catching that Sara. And to think I edited this before posting. Huzzah.

  2. Reply
    Sara 29/08/2013

    Oh and kudos on getting to know your roots a little more! I so envy you! ;p

    • Reply
      Selena 29/08/2013

      Girl, it’s been a long time coming and not without it’s challenges, that’s for sure. There just came a time years ago when there wasn’t denying it any longer and also not being held back from searching it out helped too. From your comment am I to understand you have some roots that you feel a disconnect from? Tell me more! This is one of my favourite topics to talk about.

  3. Reply
    Sara 02/09/2013

    Thankful that I read this today. I am anishinaabe also, brought up without our culture. I’m trying to find my way back for my children, my 3 daughters. It’s a long road. I’d love to find a midi lodge but only know of sweat lodges around here. Good luck with everything. Miigwetch!

    • Reply
      Selena 06/09/2013

      Sara, thanks so much for your kind words. I understand all too well what your going through and I know it can be discouraging at times. All I say is keep on keepin’ on and the beauty and truth will eventually find it’s way. Not everyday – not as an answer to everything but roots. Oh, they are SO important. Kowing where you come from, celebrating in it with pride, knowing our ways and REAL history. So empowering.

  4. Reply
    Janet Littlecrow 05/09/2013

    I’m soooooo proud of you for trying to learn your ways!! I also grew up a city girl, as did my parents as older kids. It’s so easy to get lost in the everyday living, that we have to do to survive, and too many of us leave being Indian behind. But we have to do what we can to keep our ways alive and teach the next generations, or our ancestors sacrifices will be all for nothing in the end. Kudos on a great job! The kids are precious!!

    • Reply
      Selena 06/09/2013

      Meegwetch Janet! I must confess to getting a lot of side glances at the Pow Wows and on the street in general. I confuse people with my snow-white skin and my multi-racial marriage and children. Oh well, the Anishinaabe ways are HOME to me, no matter. Thanks for you support. You’ve no idea how much it means to me.

  5. Reply

    […] just watched it and am ugly crying, so. Our extended families have become close, I’m now a sponsor to ShoShona’s niece and developing awesome friendships with her sisters. Sho’s mom is a guiding light in my life; […]

  6. Reply
    Gail 15/11/2013

    Thank you, I am making a jingle dress for my granddaughter, I was so unsure of how to put it together, thank you for your words and determination. Your children are beautiful. I am now ready to make her dress.

  7. Reply
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