Helping foster cultural connections, the Brandon Aboriginal Youth Activity Centre has introduced a ribbon skirt-making workshop for community youth.
Creating ribbon skirts serves as a great opportunity to bring young people together and pass down traditional Indigenous teachings, according to BAYAC community youth mentor Miranda Traverse.
“The ribbon skirt gets us closer to our ancestors. They notice the bright colours of the ribbon skirt. Honestly, when I’m sewing and beading, I feel it and hear it,” Traverse said. “It’s a sign of respect for our ancestors and what they’ve been through, and what we as a whole nation go through in Canada.”
The ribbon skirt workshops are held at the Mahkaday Ginew Memorial Centre on College Avenue Saturdays from 1 to 7 p.m. A Brandon Friendship Centre membership is needed to participate in programming. Membership forms will be available on-site and a fee of $5 a year is required.
The ribbon skirt program launched in early September and is designed for youth between the ages of six to 18. Supplies for the skirts are provided by BAYAC.
BAYAC youth cultural worker Kristen Roulette cautioned participants should not expect to finish a ribbon skirt in one day and instead plan to come, hang out at the Memorial Centre and make new friends each week as they work to complete their projects.
Traverse first learned the art of crafting a ribbon skirt two years ago. She later passed on the tradition to Roulette.
Together, the duo has teamed up to help share the cultural practice with youth in the community.
The ribbons on the skirts signify prayers for ancestors and the resiliency of Indigenous women across the generations, Roulette added. She said working on the skirts gives someone the feeling of connecting to their culture and is a therapeutic experience.
It has been exciting learning different tricks and techniques to create a skirt, Roulette said, adding they have enjoyed sharing what they learn as they go and inspiring different ideas for designs with others.
It is exciting because they have passed on cultural teachings, and they hope youth will be able to share what they have learned with others.
She added they encourage creativity so youth can create a skirt that uniquely reflects their identity and culture.
During a session, they help youth pick a fabric colour for their skirt, figure out their measurements, choose the ribbon colours and get to work sewing.
Traverse said they will also be helping men make ribbon shirts in the future.
The team is also helping participants learn to bead. Young people who drop by have created pop-sockets for phones, earrings and other crafts.
The new programs are building on a rich history of planning engaging activities for Brandon’s young people, Traverse said.
“I like doing cultural activities with our youth because I feel like nowadays youth ... tend to be more urbanized. They would rather play soccer, football or other kids stuff,” Roulette said. “They don’t do as many activities culturally.”
Traverse said they offer a full experience for young people and offer other activities like sports and cooking, along with traditional teachings, to ensure participants are engaged.
The goal is to design activities that benefit students emotionally, physically and culturally.
They are hoping to inspire more youth to drop by for a visit and are also encouraging parents and grandparents to join in on the fun.
The programs teach important skills that will benefit youth in their daily lives. They welcome any youth interested to stop by for a visit.
“You will feel so proud you made your own skirt,” Traverse said with a grin.
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Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun