Created during Spanish flu, jingle dress dance now helping First Nations people cope with COVID-19



The cove in nineteen pandemic women and girls across north. America have been posting videos of themselves performing the jingle dress. Dance it's a dance. It has historical ties to another pandemic from one hundred years ago way. People in the United States and Canada tell a similar story about the origins of the jingle dance tradition. They cite a young girl being very sick her father after having a vision about a special dress and dance associated with it gate. The little girl that dress. She began dancing in the new jingle dress and survived that was University of Minnesota professor. Brenda Child on the origin story of the Jingle Dress. Dance Brenda is a member of the Red Lake. Agip way reservation in Minnesota and she's been doing some research into the history of the jingle dress. She joins me from Minneapolis to tell us what she discovered. Welcome Brenda thank you so much. What did you find? Was the origin of the Jingle dress. Dance or I was really surprised when I started doing the research. I couldn't find a single photograph of what you would call. Jingle dress before Circa nineteen twenty in the United States or Canada. And I thought. Wow you know as a historian. It occurred to me that something very big had happened. That created this new healing tradition a century ago so when I started doing further work into it. It seems that it was the big flu. Epidemic of Nineteen nineteen very similar in some ways to the global pandemic were experiencing today. And so the story whether it's told in Whitefish Bay Ontario or central Minnesota on them lacks reservation. Both of them name a little girl as being the first jingle dress dancer and the girl was actually survivor of the global pandemic of a century ago And there was something else going on at the time as well as this Influenza pandemic there was there is this law. I guess outlawing I indigenous a spiritual holiday so that really added to to the power of the dress right. Yeah it was. I like to say that the jingle dress dance was a radical tradition from its origins because in the context of the United States the Indian office in Washington had outlawed ritualistic dancing on reservations in this kind of infamous dance order of one thousand nine hundred twenty one but it is true that the jingle dress dance emerged during a moment when these kinds of traditions were being suppressed on reservation communities and so in that sense the jingle dress dance was sort a radical tradition from its beginning very cool. Is there a history of new? Data's being created out of Specific need or issue that needs to be addressed in our communities. Well I mean I think we have a tradition of new dances being created. But this is the first dance. I traced to a kind of global epidemic. And what's interesting to me? Is Most of US know that Indian tribes in North America? Ever since the coming of Europeans experienced many different kinds of epidemics and pandemics and smallpox and what the jingle dress dance sort of shows me is maybe this was a way that native people had of coping with these earlier generations of epidemic says. Well how is the jingle dress itself connected to healing? I think most native people know that the jingles themselves argued with kind of healing power. Ojibway people think of spiritual power as being passed through the air and so sound is very important in that world view. And so if you've ever been to a powwow and you've had the wonderful experience of listening to many Jingle dress dancers dancing together you know. It's a really interesting sound in that it's a tinkling sound. But some people have described it as almost being like a summer rain or or voting sounds of a rainfall what we learned this past year. My students and I at the University of Minnesota were putting together an exhibit for the Malek's Indian Museum thinking about it being the hundredth anniversary of the Jingle Dress. Dance tradition and we had an opportunity to look at dresses through the decades and so from the Twenties Thirties forties fifties and more recent years. And what we found. Is that the jingles over the years. Where made of different materials we often think of. The Classic Copenhagen Snuff Can Lid and that has been a consistent material that our people have used to make jingles but we also saw dresses with Prince Albert tobacco cans. We also saw dresses made from baking soda cans early. So yeah so people. American Indian women and women in particular have been very creative. We had one early Dakota dress. That had a jacket. Both of them with jingles and the skirt and jacket were made of drapery fabric. Wow it sounds like a jingle dressed dancers were kind of contemporary in that they were able to go with the styles of the time they did and in fact some of my favorite dresses are the first ones from the collections at the Minnesota Historical Society. They're often black kind of Slim dresses that resemble the flapper dresses of the Nineteen Seventies. And so it's surprising. And that's sort of one of the things. We wanted to show with the exhibit that in many ways. The Jingle dress dance evolved through the decades. There isn't one consistent style but the jingles are what they all have in common a lot of the dresses from the thirties and forties. We found had long zinc zippers. Up The side showing that they were probably purchased in department stores. When you and then we're embellished later with jingles and that's something that may be would surprise some of us who always say you know you have to make your own jingle dress or you have to have it made for you. Because in the nineteen thirties and forties women sometimes purchase them and added the jingles. Later I imagine many people think that Powell dancing has been around for hundreds of years. But as you say the jingle dress dance and the dress itself is relatively new. How do people respond when when you tell them that? I like to talk about that idea very much. Because many people can only see indigenous people as historic people. I know we have that problem in the United States where sort of viewed as always in terms of the past and so with the Jingle dress even though the Powell tradition is older than the jingle dress dance shows me. Is that native people and Ojibway people here in the Great Lakes were part of the making of the modern world. And who would've thought one hundred years ago a century ago that this global epidemic that people experienced all over the world would go into the remote communities of the Great Lakes and be very devastating and that women would respond to that epidemic. By you know I always say it's like applying. Sav to wounds that they were able to kind of create this new tradition. That is still with us. A century later. Wow now you mentioned earlier that you helped curate and exhibit at the Mill Lack indie museum in Ohio which took a look at the history of the Jingle Dress and was organized for the one hundredth anniversary of this dance. What kinds of dresses did you have contributed to this exhibit from some some of the you know the the dancers out there well. It was really fun because we started the exhibit with the idea that we were going to bring historic dresses so that the community could kind of look at what I mentioned earlier. The how the dresses evolved over the decades but then what we also found is there almost became like a second exhibit because women wanted to bring their own shingle dress into the exhibit as well and. I think the one that is photographed. Most often is one where it belongs to Vanessa. Northrop from the fond laco devoid community in Minnesota and she turned her police uniform into a jingle dress. And that's a very powerful dress When people see it another favorite is the one I mentioned made out the Baking Soda. Can lintz and that was from our spiritual leader from Kind of central Minnesota and Wisconsin. His name is Lee Staples and he asked if we would like to have his mother's dress which he's still had Lee himself is in his seventies so he brought in his mother's very beautiful dress and we that to the exhibit as well. Just a beautiful sight to see yeah. The exhibit is called the BOSCA. Uganda good day. The Jingle dress at one hundred and as I said it will be having another season. Hopefully when the museum reopened again later this spring it. It will be there for the summer months as well. Now you may have noticed over the last couple of weeks. We've seen women and girls posting videos of themselves dancing Jingle online in response to cove nineteen how does it make you feel to see indigenous people turning back to the Jingle dress dance as a dentist healing? Well it makes me feel great. It makes me very happy to think that another generation as being inspired by this tradition. You may have noticed early last summer that Google had doodle in the middle of June about the jingle dress dance and it was the first time that Google had commissioned a native artist to make a doodle and I thought that was a very interesting thing to happen in the last year too. So what's interesting to me to the timing of these particular events because who would have thought a century after the jingle dress we'd have another global pandemic and just at the time we were remembering that history so strongly that we would have a similar kind of episode in the midst of our country and any in our communities so the timing of. This is all very interesting to

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