- By Rich Tupica
Back in 1918, “the mother of all pandemics'' swiftly spread influenza to 500 million people, one-third of the world’s population. It was a devastating two-year period that killed an estimated 17 million people globally. There was no vaccine to prevent it and no antibiotics to treat it. Control efforts were limited to non-pharmaceutical interventions, including quarantine, home remedies, good-hygiene practices and disinfectant use.
It was during that time of great sadness and uncertainty that the Jingle Dress — adorned with jingling metal cones — was created by three different Ojibwa communities: the Mille Lacs, Red Lake Band of Chippewa and the Whitefish Bay Ojibwe.
Also known as the Prayer Dress, the Jingle Dress is thought to bring healing to those who are sick. The dress and the Prayer Dress Dance have been mainstays of American Indian and First Nations pow wows.
Flash-forward to today, as our nation now fights the COVID-19 pandemic, and the inspiring rattle of the Jingle Dress has been making waves across social media, thanks to dancers who are sharing inspiring videos of themselves praying and dancing in the intricately-crafted regalia.
“We know today that there’s a lot about healing that can be done through medicine, but [there is] a psychological component that is less understood,” Brenda J. Child, author of My Grandfather’s Knocking Sticks, said in a previous interview with the University of Minnesota. “Their dance was part of this psychological component of illness.”
The dresses, which are commonly seen at Powwows across the country, jingle as the person walks and is said to spread healing.
Shyla Tootoosis, 11, is a young dancer from Thunderchild First Nation in Saskatchewan. Last month, Tootoosis was profiled by CBC reporter Rhiannon Johnson after she posted videos, along with help from her mother. “It's a really beautiful dance that provides healing," Tootoosis told CBC. “When I was growing up I was always taught to pray for one another, and it was a true honor to pray for the world.”
Last year, as the Jingle Dress turned 100 years old, the Mille Lacs Indian Museum and Trading Post unveiled its exhibition, Ziibaaska’ iganagooday: The Jingle Dress at 100.
Through photographs, oral tradition and a display of jingle dresses from the Minnesota Historical Society’s collections, visitors learn not only about the dress and dance, but also how its origin can be traced to the Mille Lacs Ojibwe. It’s set to run through October 2020, but (due to the COVID-19 crisis) please check for new dates and times.
More Stories Like ThisHere’s What’s Going in Indian Country: Sept. 22-31
‘Reservation Dogs’ Gets Season 3 Renewal from FX
4th Annual Native American Animation Lab Opens Call for Applications
Arts Organization, Museum Debut New Residency Grant for Indigenous Artists
Detroit Lions Rookie Malcolm Rodriguez Joins the Community of Indigenous NFL Players
Do you appreciate a Native perspective on the news?
For the past decade-plus, we’ve covered the important Indigenous stories that are often overlooked by other media. From the protests at Standing Rock and the toppling of colonizer statues during the racial equity protests, to the ongoing epidemic of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women (MMIW) and the past-due reckoning related to assimilation, cultural genocide and Indian Boarding Schools, we have been there to provide a Native perspective and elevate Native voices.
Our news is free for everyone to read, but it is not free to produce. That’s why we’re asking you to make a donation this month to help support our efforts. Any contribution — big or small — helps us remain a force for change in Indian Country and continue telling the stories that are so often ignored, erased or overlooked. Most often, our donors make a one-time gift of $20 or more, while many choose to make a recurring monthly donation of $5 or $10. Whatever you can do, it helps fund our Indigenous-led newsroom and our ability to cover Native news.
Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you.