Niverville Ribbon Skirt Club holds year-end feast

Niverville High School’s Ribbon Skirt Club held its year-end feast Thursday, celebrating the conclusion of the sewing club’s inaugural year.

Students, teachers, family, and Knowledge Keeper Patti Sayies met at the school for chilli and bannock, followed by a giveaway ceremony. Each student wore a handmade ribbon skirt, showing off the year’s work

“We put all of our time and energy into them, and it’s kind of like a celebration and a ceremony to honour our time together,” said Sayies.

15 students sewed ribbon skirts and shirts, meeting every month with Knowledge Keeper Patti Sayies. Students chose their patterned fabric and ribbons and sewed the garments with Sayies’s guidance after school. The students offered Sayies tobacco at the beginning of each meeting, and in return, Sayies offered Indigenous teachings to the students.

“Creator told us to celebrate life, to look beautiful, to help others look beautiful. And so that’s why we make ribbon skirts, and that’s why we wear them,” she said.

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Niverville High School Learning Support Teacher Raely Voulgaris started the club in October 2023. Though it was open to Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, she was forced to cap attendance at 15 due to overwhelming demand.

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“We’ve had teachers want to join, people from the community want to join, so it’s just been an awesome experience here,” she said.

“It’s also been a diverse group of students,” her colleague Katie Martin added. “They come from all different friendship groups, and on these evenings when we’re all together, you would never know. It’s such a welcoming community.”

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Grade 12 student Brooklyn Rian Enns didn’t know what to expect when she initially joined the club.

“I thought we weren’t going to learn anything besides just how to sew a skirt,” she said.

But the process of sewing her skirt brought Rian Enns closer to her culture, and her family.

“I didn’t know that much [about my culture], because my dad grew up adopted,” she said. “I’ve gone home, and me and my parents will discuss it. My dad actually attended all the meetings, so he was here with me while we learned. So I think it definitely opened up a lot more opportunity for my family. We go to powwows a lot now, and we all talk, and I’m more confident in my culture.”

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Sayies’s lesson about good intention especially stuck out to Rian Enns. Sayies explained Thursday:

“Whenever you create anything, whenever you’re creating art, whether you’re beading earrings, or you’re making a ribbon skirt or you’re painting, [is] to always put your good intentions, your good feelings in there, your good thoughts,” she said. “When you become frustrated, you need to put that down, because that carries your energy and your feelings in it.”

Sayies, Martin, and Voulgaris hope to run the club again next year.

“They’re beautiful, they’re vibrant, they just show so much energy,” said Martin. “And as students have been finishing up their skirts in the last few weeks, the pride that they have when they put them on is unbelievable.”

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