This Cheslatta Carrier Nation braider says braiding helped her grieve loss of her mom

·2 min read
Jenn Jack braids hair for people throughout northern B.C., some of whom travel several hours to procure her services. (Nadia Mansour/CBC - image credit)
Jenn Jack braids hair for people throughout northern B.C., some of whom travel several hours to procure her services. (Nadia Mansour/CBC - image credit)

When her mother passed away in 2021, Jenn Jack says she almost "lost herself."

"Life really wasn't the same without her," she said.

Searching for something to cure her sadness, she found braiding. She'd read online that braiding had a healing power, and turned to doing hair as a way to cope.

"If I'm sad and I'm braiding someone's hair, then my sadness will get entangled and entwined into the hair almost like a dream catcher would catch a bad dream," Jack said.

Nadia Mansour/CBC
Nadia Mansour/CBC

For Jack, a 42-year-old member of the Cheslatta Carrier Nation in northern B.C., braiding has become both a passion and her livelihood — she has her own business called Braids by Jenn, which she runs out of her home in Prince George.

She specializes in traditional Indigenous braiding, but adds pops of colour to the braids for style and personality.

"I love making people feel better, feel confident, feel strong, feel beautiful," Jack said.

Nadia Mansour/CBC
Nadia Mansour/CBC

Jacqueline Joseph, a customer of Jack's, says she had blue added to her braids because it's her favourite colour, but her braids have more meaning than simply showing off her personal style.

"It just gives me strength when I have braids," Joseph said. "It's part of my culture, and I just love the braids spiritually."

The cultural significance of braiding varies among First Nations, but for some, braids are a symbol of strength and wisdom.

Nadia Mansour/CBC
Nadia Mansour/CBC

People from across northern B.C., are booking appointments with Jack, some travelling for as long as seven hours to have their hair braided.

While that's flattering for Jack, she'd prefer to teach braiding to people from other communities so people aren't forced to travel so far.

"I want to be able to say, well, I've got this girl in this community and she could braid your hair like me," she said.

Jack has been teaching braiding classes in some communities, and hopes to do more.

"Braids are important in our culture. I'd like to bring that tradition back," she said.

Although her mother is gone, Jack says she remains by her side in spirit, lighting her path.

"I'm just so proud and happy with all that I've accomplished and I just wish that my mom was here to see it," she said. "I used to tell her all the time, everything I do, I do for you. I just want her to know that I'm doing it for her. I'm making it happen"

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