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Ribbon skirt, ribbon vest workshop offered as lead-up to National Day of Truth and Reconciliation

A ribbon skirt and ribbon vest workshop is being offered on Sept. 24 and 25 in Kehewin.
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KEHEWIN - While she may not have been taught the skills when she was growing up and is mostly self-taught, Shannon Hambly is keen to teach others how to make ribbon skirts, ribbon vests, and pass on the knowledge she’s gathered.

A “loss of culture” among many Indigenous people is something she hopes to address, and for that reason is offering her time on Sept. 24 and 25 to lead a ribbon skirt and ribbon vest making workshop in Kehewin.

The Ribbon Skirts ‘n Vests Workshop is being put on thanks for the support of Lakeland Truth and Reconciliation. All material is being provided, but there are limited spots available and registration is on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Hambly says ribbon skirts and vests are important to Indigenous people, allowing them to embrace their culture, and it also gives them something specific to wear when taking part in ceremony. The workshop is open to all people. Some Indigenous people may not have the skills or tools available to create a garment, while non-Indigenous people may want to show their support, listen, and participate in events where the garments are encouraged. 

Some of the skirts and vests will also be used as gifts and will be given to survivors who will be sharing their stories during Orange Shirt Day and National Day for Truth and Reconciliation events this month.

Hambly says she believes the speakers are very brave, and notes that “We’re not going to know how to move forward without truth,” making the stories crucial to reconciliation.

Speaking specifically about the ribbon skirts and vests, Hambly says creating the clothing allows for people to be creative and includes personal pieces that mean something to them, such as animal shapes and colours.

“It has meaning for you,” says Hambly, adding, “A lot of the women feel proud to be so creative.”

She notes that ribbon skirts specifically are becoming more popular, and proves that the Indigenous culture is “always evolving. It’s a living culture.” Some choose to design A-line skirts, and others do shorter skirts, for example. Various sewing patterns for the ribbons also exist. 

Hambly says she became involved with the upcoming workshop after meeting representatives of Lakeland Truth and Reconciliation at the Phase 1 ground search at University nuhelot’įne thaiyots’į nistameyimâkanak Blue Quills in August.

When asked if she would help put on a workshop, Hambly says “I’m always happy to pass on that knowledge.” 

She encourages people who register to set aside both days to take part, since experience will vary and some people may need more time than others to complete their skirt or vest.

To register for the workshop, email lakelandtruthandreconciliation@gmail.com

Honouring those lost

When unmarked graves for 215 children were found buried near a former residential school in Kamloops in 2021, Hambly says there were a lot of emotions felt. As a 60s Scoop survivor herself, she says she connects with residential school survivors. 

“It was a really emotional time,” acknowledges Hambly. So, she prayed and researched some of the stories. She heard about how many things - such as ceremonies - were offences, but she also felt proud knowing elders had held on to the knowledge long enough to pass it on to the next generation.

“That’s brave.”

To help in her own healing, Hambly created a jingle dress using pieces that had meaning - such as the 215 jingles that adorn the dress, and the colour orange in honour of the story of a residential school survivor who had her new orange shirt taken away from her. The stories of the children who attended residential school are told through the dress.

The dress ultimately made its way to Kamloops, and it went viral on the Internet. Hambly’s daughter continues to wear the dress proudly, and speaks about the impacts of residential schools.

She will be wearing the dress at upcoming events scheduled for Sept. 30 in Bonnyville. 

Looking ahead to Sept. 30, Hambly says, “We’re still learning how deep the trauma goes down generations.” She says it will take 100 years of healing and moving forward as everyone learns the real truths of what happened. 

“I got denied my culture,” says Hambly. But, she’s making sure her children can learn the teachings and be proud of who they are.

Sept. 29 and 30

Looking ahead to Sept. 29 and 30, there will be plenty of opportunities for people to take part in Orange Shirt Day and National Day for Truth and Reconciliation activities in the Bonnyville area.

According to Corita Vachon with Lakeland Truth and Reconciliation, a drive-thru procession will take place in the community on Sept. 29 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. 

Then, on Sept. 30, a full day of events are set to take place at the C2 Centre, starting with a flag raising at 9 a.m., then workshops from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. An orange shirt walk will then take place at about 4 p.m., followed by supper. 

See next week’s edition of Lakeland This Week for more lead-up to Orange Shirt Day events in the Lakeland.



Janice Huser

About the Author: Janice Huser

Janice Huser has been with the St. Paul Journal since 2006. She is a graduate of the SAIT print media journalism program, is originally from St. Paul and has a passion for photography.
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