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Award-winning Ojibwe Scholar Brenda J. Child Details the History and Significance of the Jingle Dress Dance–Featured as Today’s Google Doodle!

Posted byAlison Aten on 15 Jun 2019 | Tagged as: Authors, Native American

Powwow season is in full swing. Did you know that one of the most popular traditional dances was inspired by a dream given to the Ojibwe people during a global health crisis?

One hundred years ago in 1918-1919 when the global influenza pandemic killed millions worldwide, including thousands of Native Americans, a revolutionary new tradition of healing emerged in Ojibwe communities in North America: the jingle dress dance. Oral histories vary on where exactly the jingle dress first appeared, but the Mille Lacs community in Minnesota was a center of activity.

Ojibwe scholar Professor Brenda J. Child of the University of Minnesota recounts the origin story of the jingle dress dance and the significance of the dance as a powerful healing tradition and act of anti-colonialist resistance and female empowerment in her award-winning book, My Grandfather’s Knocking Sticks: Ojibwe Family Life and Labor on the Reservation (MNHS Press).

In the book she recounts:

“An Ojibwe girl became very sick. She appeared to be near death. Her father, fearing the worst, sought a vision to save her life, and this was how he learned of a unique dress and dance. The father made this dress for his daughter and asked her to dance a few springlike steps, in which one foot was never to leave the ground. Before long, she felt stronger and kept up the dance. After her recovery, she continued to dance in the special dress, and eventually she formed the first Jingle Dress Dance Society.”

Child notes that the story suggests an influenza-like illness, making is possible that the first jingle dress dancer suffered from the widespread epidemic of Spanish flu during the World War I era. She writes:

“Although a man conceived the Jingle Dress Dance after receiving a vision, women were responsible for its proliferation … Once the influenza epidemic struck, women applied the ceremony like a salve to fresh wounds. They designed jingle dresses, organized sodalities, and danced at tribal gatherings large and intimate, spreading a new tradition while participating in innovative rituals of healing. Special healing songs are associated with the jingle dress, and both songs and dresses possess a strong therapeutic value. Women who participate in the Jingle Dress Dance and wear these special dresses do so to ensure the health and well-being of an individual, a family, or even the broader tribal community.”

Her book also highlights the design and construction of the jingle dress and how the dance has spread throughout and beyond Ojibwe Country. Today jingle dress is a popular dance form on the competitive powwow circuit and is performed by Native women with a variety of tribal affiliations.

Child also recently curated an exhibit on the history of the jingle dress to marks its 100th anniversary at the Mille Lacs Indian Museum and Trading Post in Onamia. Featuring jingle dresses from a variety of eras, the exhibit “Ziibaaska’ iganagooday: The Jingle Dress at 100” will be on display through Oct. 31, 2020.

Brenda J. Child (Red Lake Ojibwe) is Northrop professor of American studies and American Indian studies at the University of Minnesota.  She is the author of the critically acclaimed children’s picture book, Bowwow Powwow illustrated by Ojibwe artist, Jonathan Thunder which features a jingle dress dancer. She has been featured in Indian Country Today, Native America Calling, Minnesota Public Radio, and has lectured at the National Museum of the American Indian. We asked her a few more questions about the history and significance of the jingle dress dance.

Brenda J. Child-photo-by-lisa-miller1

Q & A with Brenda J. Child

How do modern jingle dresses differ from dresses a hundred years ago? How were and are they made?

We organized an exhibit at the Mille Lacs Indian Museum and Trading Post in Minnesota to show the evolution of the jingle dress over the past century. Dresses from the 1920s and 1930s resembled flapper dress styles of the day, and the jingles are made from a variety of materials– chewing tobacco lids, baking powder cans, and Prince Albert tobacco cans. Today’s dresses tend to be more elaborate than those of the early 20th century, but they are all very beautiful.

Can you talk a bit about the extensive photographic record of jingle dresses in the Great Lakes?

I first realized that the Jingle Dress Dance Tradition emerged during the flu epidemic when I was unable to find a photograph in the US or Canada of the Jingle Dress prior to circa 1920. For a historian, that told me something very big had recently happened. I eventually put the jingle dress stories we tell in our communities together with my understanding of the terrible impact of the flu epidemic on Native communities of the US and Canada.

How did Ojibwe women use the therapeutic power of the jingle dress?

They used it to heal their communities. This particular epidemic killed people in the prime of their lives, young adults. It killed more people than World War I.

The jingle dress tradition emerged around the same time as the Dance Order from Washington arrived in 1921. What was that order and did it affect the dance?

The Jingle Dress at 100 exhibit tries to answer two questions. First, why is it the the hundredth anniversary of the tradition? This is where I try to explain the history of the global epidemic. Second, I also consider how the jingle dress has been in the past, and remains today, a radical tradition. It emerged in the context of a global epidemic of influenza one hundred years ago, but the tradition is still with us today because it has been embraced not just by Ojibwe people, but Dakotas, and women from many tribes. It emerged in an era when ritualistic dance was banned in the US. Many of the protesters at Standing Rock were jingle dress dancers, and so women have been politically empowered by the tradition as well. It remains a vibrant and modern tradition, even though it is a century old.

Ohiyesa: The Soul of an Indian

Posted byAlison Aten on 27 Apr 2018 | Tagged as: Event, Native American

Ohiyesa: The Soul of an Indian
This year’s Minneapolis St. Paul Film Festival includes a remarkable new film that reflects Minnesota’s vital Dakota past and present. Ohiyesa: The Soul of an Indian “follows Kate Beane, a young Dakota woman, as she examines the extraordinary life of her celebrated relative, Ohiyesa, also known as Charles Alexander Eastman (1858-1939). Biography and journey come together as Kate traces his path—from traditional Dakota boyhood, through education at Dartmouth College, and in later roles as physician, author, lecturer and Native American advocate.”


As the filmmaker notes, “Charles Alexander Eastman was a renowned physician, author, lecturer and Native American rights advocate. His life has been documented in various articles throughout history, but Ohiyesa: The Soul of an Indian makes for a truly unique effort—a project helmed by Eastman’s descendants. Kate Beane and her family bring Eastman’s story to screen, charting from his childhood growing to his education to his illustrious career.

“Beside his beloved wife, Elaine Goodman Eastman, Charles (Ohiyesa) produced a lasting body of work that continues to inform Native American culture and the global representation of it. A family effort, filmmaker Syd Beane (whose great grandfather, John Eastman, was brother to Charles) and Kate showcase not only their ancestor’s career but the lasting influence his life had on future generations, making for a film that weaves together past and present to tell the story of Ohiyesa.”

We are honored to have Dr. Kate Beane as a colleague here at the Minnesota Historical Society. She was a Gale Fellow and is now Program and Outreach Manager working with the MNHS Native American Initiatives team. A member of the Flandreau Santee Sioux tribe in South Dakota, she holds a Ph.D. in American studies from the University of Minnesota. Her research and writing is included in Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota by Gwen Westerman and Bruce White. Her section in the book on Bde Maka Ska, formerly known as Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis, details a Dakota agricultural community living there in the 1830s led by another one of her ancestors, Mahpiya Wicasta (Cloud Man).

Here are a few  links to learn more about Ohiyesa and Dakota history and culture:

Historic Fort Snelling: The Dakota People

My Grandfather’s Knocking Sticks Wins Jon Gjerde Prize

Posted byAlison Aten on 08 Oct 2015 | Tagged as: Awards, History, Native American

Brenda J. ChildMy Grandfather's Knocking SticksThe Minnesota Historical Society Press is pleased to announce My Grandfather’s Knocking Sticks: Ojibwe Family Life and Labor on the Reservation by Brenda J. Child as the winner of the Jon Gjerde Prize for the best book in midwestern history published in 2014 as awarded by the Midwestern History Association.

My Grandfather’s Knocking Sticks explores the innovative ways Ojibwe men and women on reservations around the Great Lakes sustained both their families and their cultural identity in the face of extreme prejudice and hardship.  Brenda J. Child is professor of American Studies at the University of Minnesota and author of two other books, Boarding School Seasons: American Indian Families, 1900-1940 and Holding Our World Together: Ojibwe Women and the Survival of Community.

My Grandfather’s Knocking Sticks is also the winner of the Labriola Center American Indian National Book Award.

The mission of the Midwestern History Association is to promote the study of the history of the American Midwest by way of organizing and supporting academic discussions and conference presentations and panels related to the region’s history and culture.

Jon Gjerde was professor of American History at the University of California at Berkeley and distinguished historian of immigration and European-American ethnic groups in the Middle West. He completed his doctorate at the University of Minnesota.

More information on the Star Tribune “On Books” blog.

Brenda J. Child wins Labriola Center American Indian National Book Award

Posted byAlison Aten on 31 Mar 2015 | Tagged as: Authors, Awards, Native American

My Grandfather's Knocking Sticks Brenda ChildWe’re delighted to note that My Grandfather’s Knocking Sticks: Ojibwe Family Life and Labor on the Reservation by Brenda J. Child has won the the seventh annual Labriola Center American Indian National Book Award.

Child uses her family’s own powerful stories to tell a different kind of history–one that puts her reader’s feet on the reservation. She shows how Ojibwe men and women on reservations around the Great Lakes sustained both their families and their cultural identity in the face of extreme prejudice and hardship.

Winners of  the Labriola Center American Indian National Book Award cross multiple disciplines or fields of study, are relevant to contemporary North American Indian communities, and focus on American Indian Studies, modern tribal studies, modern biographies, tribal governments or federal Indian policy.

Dedicated in 1993, the Labriola National American Indian Data Center in the Arizona State University (ASU) Libraries is one of the only repositories within a public university library devoted to American Indian collections. The Labriola Center holds both primary and secondary sources on American Indians across North America. The Center’s primary purpose is to promote a better understanding of American Indian language, culture, social, political and economic issues. The Labriola National American Indian Data Center has been endowed by Frank and Mary Labriola whose wish has been that “the Labriola Center be a source of education and pride for all Native Americans.”

My Grandfather’s Knocking Sticks is also a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award.

Mni Sota Makoce Wins 2014 Hognander Award

Posted byAlison Aten on 07 Mar 2014 | Tagged as: Authors, Awards, MHS Author in the News, MHS press, Native American

Gwen Westerman and Bruce White (courtsey of The Friends of the St. Paul Public Library)

Photo credit: Laura Truett, The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library

We are delighted to announce that Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota by Gwen Westerman and Bruce White is the winner of the 2014 Hognander Minnesota History Award.

The Hognander Minnesota History Award recognizes the most outstanding scholarly work related to Minnesota history published during the preceding two years. The award, funded by the Hognander Family Foundation, is presented every two years.

This award stems from the Hognander family’s belief in the importance of studying and preserving history. As Joe Hognander notes, “We established this award because of our relationship with the Minnesota Historical Society. Its commitment to excellence is noteworthy in promoting scholarly research and writing. We hope this award will inspire more activity by recognizing and rewarding the finest work in the field.”

Much of the focus on the Dakota people in Minnesota rests on the tragic events of the 1862 U.S.–Dakota War and the resulting exile that sent the majority of the Dakota to prisons and reservations beyond the state’s boundaries. But the true depth of the devastation of removal cannot be understood without a closer examination of the history of the Dakota people and their deep cultural connection to the land that is Minnesota. Drawing on oral history interviews, archival work, and painstaking comparisons of Dakota, French, and English sources, Mni Sota Makoce tells the detailed history of the Dakota people in their traditional homelands for at least hundreds of years prior to exile.

Published by Minnesota Historical Society Press in 2012, the book went on to win the 2013 Minnesota Book Award in the Minnesota category last year.

Westerman and White will be honored for their latest achievement at the upcoming Book Awards Gala on April 5 at the Saint Paul Union Depot. Gwen Westerman is professor of English and Humanities at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Bruce White is author of We Are at Home: Pictures of the Ojibwe People.

Spring 2014 Titles

Posted byAlison Aten on 10 Jan 2014 | Tagged as: Authors, Children, Cooking, Fiction, Food, History, Literary, MHS press, Native American, Scandinavian Studies, Travel

Augie\'s Secrets by Neal Karlen The Brides of Midsummer When I Was a Child Her Honor Keystones of the Stone Arch Bridge Curiosity\'s Cats

Conflicted Mission Hungry Johnny Toys of the \'50s, \'60s, and \'70s Scoop Smitten with Squash

Minnesota Historical Society Press Spring 2014 Titles

Augie’s Secrets: The Minneapolis Mob and the King of the Hennepin Strip (Paperback, February 2014)
Neal Karlen

The Brides of Midsummer (First English Translation, February 2014)
Vilhelm Moberg

When I Was a Child: An Autobiographical Novel (February 2014)
Vilhelm Moberg

Her Honor: Rosalie Wahl and the Minnesota Women’s Movement (March 2014)
Lori Sturdevant

Keystones of the Stone Arch Bridge (April 2014)
Carolyn Ruff

Curiosity’s Cats: Writers on Research (April 2014)
Edited by Bruce Joshua Miller

Conflicted Mission: Faith, Disputes, and Deception on the Dakota Frontier (April 2014)
Linda M. Clemmons

Hungry Johnny (May 2014)
Cheryl Minnema, Illustrations by Wesley Ballinger

Toys of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s (May 2014)
Kate Roberts and Adam Scher

Scoop: Notes from a Small Ice Cream Shop (May 2014)
Jeff Miller

Smitten with Squash (July 2014)
Amanda Paa

Original Local by Heid E. Erdrich

Posted byAlison Aten on 21 Nov 2013 | Tagged as: Authors, Cooking, Event, Native American

Original LocalHeid E. Erdrich, photo by FRESH Photography & Media Spirit Plate by Aza Erdrich

Local foods have garnered much attention in recent years, but the concept is hardly new: indigenous peoples have always made the most of nature’s gifts. Their menus were truly the “original local,” celebrated here in 135 home-tested recipes paired with stories from tribal activists, food researchers, families, and chefs.

Heid E. Erdrich shares family and community recipes in her new cookbook, Original Local: Indigenous Foods, Stories, and Recipes from the Upper Midwest.

Join us tomorrow, Friday, November 22, at 7 pm at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (1917 Logan Avenue South) in Minneapolis at the book launch hosted by Birchbark Books to sample recipes from the book prepared by Chef Jason Champagne.

Click here for more info, recipes, and interviews with Heid!

Why is there so much concern about mascots?

Posted byAlison Aten on 07 Nov 2013 | Tagged as: Book Excerpt, Native American

Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask

In light of  today’s protest to eliminate the use of Native mascots in Minneapolis before the Minnesota vs. Washington football game, here is an excerpt from Anton Treuer’s book, Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask.

Listen to Treuer talk about the issue last year on NPR’s Tell Me More.

*****

Why is there so much concern about mascots?

Not all Indians find the use of Indians or Indian imagery by sports teams offensive, but many do. They view nonnative people dressed as Indians, doing a “tomahawk chop,” or singing fake Indian songs as a mockery of their culture and history. Those opposed to the use of Indians as mascots usually point out that most people would not tolerate white sports fans dressed up in fake Afros singing mock African songs for a sports team using a stereotype of black people as a mascot. The protest against using nonnative racial groups as mascots has been so overwhelming that the practice was universally abandoned. In Red Wing (Minnesota), in 2008 and 2009, sixty to seventy white students dressed in low-slung pants and sports jerseys and flashed gang signs in a caricature of black culture the students called “Wigger Day.” A lawsuit was filed that resulted in school officials actively discouraging and suppressing the custom, with some resistance from students. But similar caricatures of Indians in other places have often been widely defended by school officials and community members, even officially celebrated as part of the sports culture at the schools.

The two biggest defenses of Indian mascots are pretty weak. The first is the claim that “we are honoring Native Americans.” If all Native Americans felt honored, then that argument would bear some weight, but most do not feel honored. And even if a home team truly believes it is honoring Indians through its mascot, opposing teams caricature and abuse each other’s mascots in the name of team spirit. Thus, other teams in the same conference with a team that has a native mascot will most definitely not be honoring them.

Nonnative people also justify the practice by pointing to Indians who use Indian mascots for teams, such as the Red Lake Warriors. The difference is that the Indians at Red Lake are the descendants of warriors, so their use of that image or name is not a mockery. However, I never miss a chance to encourage Red Lake and other native schools to change their mascots to something more benign so that it does not confuse others about appropriate mascots. The bottom line is that if any mascot is truly offensive to a large percentage of the population, then that mascot should go. Stick to lions, tigers, and bears. Human beings will never feel dishonored by that.

Family Fun Day at Mille Lacs Indian Museum Tomorrow!

Posted byAlison Aten on 18 Oct 2013 | Tagged as: Children, Event, Native American

The Creator\'s Game Powwow Summer Ojibwe Shoulder Bag Kit

Visit Mille Lacs Indian Museum for a day of fun and games tomorrow! Try and shoot goals with lacrosse sticks, a game that’s growing in popularity today but which has roots in American Indian history. Author Art Coulson and Robert DesJarlait will talk about and sign copies of thier book The Creator’s Game, a children’s story about lacrosse. Marcie Rendon will talk about and sign her book Powwow Summer, which follows a family as they travel along the powwow trail. And join artist Cheryl Minnema (Ojibwe Shoulder Bag Kit) as she helps young visitors decorate Ojibwe shoulder bags to take home. Visit with the authors from 1 to 2 p.m., then join a drum and dance demonstration at 2:30 p.m. This event is free and does not include museum admission.

Circles of Tradition Dakota/Ojibwe Family Day 9/28

Posted byAlison Aten on 27 Sep 2013 | Tagged as: Authors, Children, Event, Native American

Photo from Powwow Summer by Marcie Rendon with photos by Cheryl Walsh Bellville

Enjoy free admission on Saturday September 28 from 12 noon to 4:00 pm at the Minnesota History Center during Circles of Tradition Dakota/Ojibwe Family Day featuring speakers and artists from the Dakota and Ojibwe communities who will share traditions of their rich and vibrant history. Visitors can enjoy music, dancing, demonstrations, displays, language exchange, games and art activities.

Powwow Summer authors Marcie Rendon and Cheryl Walsh Bellville will share their book, see details, below.

This program is offered in conjunction with the Smithsonian Museums Day Live! -an annual free admission event.

Schedule of Events:

Levels 1 & 4
Ojibwe and Dakota artifacts from the Minnesota Historical Society’s collections

Level 2
Beadwork demo with Cheryl Minnema (Waabaanakwadookwe), a member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe  (Her work is featured in the Ojibwe Shoulder Bag Kit!)

Play “Splat” and learn Dakota words and place names with Dakota Wicohan (Noon, 1:00, 2:00 pm)

Decorate a fabric shoulder bag inspired by the designs and symbols of traditional Ojibwe bandolier bags

Level 3
Traditional Dakota songs, dancing, and drumming with Cansa’yapi Oyate (Redwood People) featuring the Lucio Family Dance Troupe (12:30 & 3:00 pm)

Birchbark demo with artist Pat Kruse, a member of the Red Cliff Band of Ojibwe

In Focus: Photography display created by the History Center’s American Indian Teen Portrait Project

Beadwork demo with Walter LaBatte, an enrolled member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate

Play “Name that Otunwe” (city or place) with Jewell Arcoren (Sisseton/Sicangu) an enrolled member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux Tribe

Inside the Then Now Wow Exhibit, Level 3
Dogsled adventures on the North Shore with History Player John Beargrease, an Ojibwe mail carrier (Noon, 1:00, 2:00, 3:00 pm on the Paul Bunyan stage)

Ask the Curator!
Learn about the Society’s collection of Dakota and Ojibwe artifacts with independent curator, Marcia Anderson. (1:00-3:00 pm)

Powwow Summer authors Marcie Rendon and Cheryl Walsh Bellville share photos and stories from their book (1:30 &2:30 pm on the Paul Bunyan stage)

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