Participants model the diversity of their completed ribbon skirts. Photo by Tracy Tinker

Ribbon Skirt-Making Project Reconnects Community after COVID

By: Jackie Ledingham November, 2022

Buffalo Narrows, like so many other communities during COVID, felt the deep effects of isolation on its residents’ mental health, but for some women, it was even harder. The members of Nimisak Buffalo Narrows Métis Women Inc. recognized a need to bring the women from the community together for reconnection and healing.

“There was so much isolation and loss within our community. The women were taking care of their children and Elders during COVID and needed something for themselves,” says Tracy Tinker, one of the project leads.

After consulting with the community about what kind of project they wanted, the Ribbon Skirt-Making Project was defined.

“Many of the women in the community didn’t have their own ribbon skirts and said they were interested in learning how to make one,” she says.

The Ribbon Skirt-Making Project took place over three sessions from December 2021 to January of 2022. Originally only two sessions were planned, but because so many women from the community enrolled and were on the wait list, they held a third session for Elders in the community.

The project brought together all ages of women from the surrounding community, and many didn’t really know each other before, she says. In the process, not only did the women find their laughter again,they came together through reconnection to help each other finish their dresses.

Darlene Petit, a local Knowledge Keeper, led the sessions teaching the women how to sew the skirts, as well as, the cultural significance behind making them.

“Ribbon skirts are made to honour women,” says Petit. “They are a symbol of resilience, sacredness and survival.”

The women created their own unique ribbon skirts, no two of them are alike,” she adds. “And now you see so much pride when they wear them. Everyone in the community wants one.”

She goes on to add the project was not only one of reconnection, but of healing. “All of the women showed me a lot of respect. I never saw one lady bicker. There was a lot of laughter and happiness even though these were people coming out of COVID after being stuck at home for so long. It was really so nice for them to be out again.”

After the project ended the community came together, along with some of the children from a previous Ribbon Skirt-Making Project, for a fashion show. Petit says they wore their ribbon skirts with pride. The members of Nimisak Buffalo Narrows Métis Women Inc. recognize the continued importance of cultural projects for the community and will continue to plan projects to take place over the next year.

This project received support through the Métis Cultural Development Fund, administered by Gabriel Dumont Institute on behalf of SaskCulture and funded by Sask Lotteries.