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The Jingle Dancer, an Ojibwe tradition stays alive

By Staff | Nov 23, 2016

Patricia Gardner (back row) came to the Hughesville Public Library on Saturday afternoon with her granddaughters Ella, Emily and Eva Nagel from Muncy to help celebrate Native American month. Each of the girls made their own dress made from authentic materials and hand sewn bells that are used in traditional pow-pows to honor their heritage and ancestry.

HUGHESVILLE – November is Native American month and the Hughesville Area Public Library hosted some special guests from the area on Saturday afternoon, November 19. Descendants of the Ojibwe tribe performed a lively presentation on some of the cultures of the Ojibwe tribe, a well known American Indian that settled mainly in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan and Canada. The Ojibway people call themselves ‘Anishinabe’ which means original person as was explained by Patricia Gardner from Picture Rocks.

Gardner, a descendant from the Ojibwe in Northern Wisconsin near Haward shared the history of the jingle dancers, a traditional dance used in pow-wows to honor their ancestry and heritage. Along with Gardner were her three granddaughters, Emily, Ella and Eva Nagel from Muncy. “We dance to honor the earth,” Gardner said. “We are stil here,” she acknowledged.

The audience was able to experience authentic materials they made from feathers and buck skins that displayed their heritage. All four made their distinctive clothing and are proud to have the culture and language of the Native American Indian. “We still dance. We still have pow-pows,” Gardner told everyone. The Pow-Pows originated in Canada and were a vision of a medical man around 1905. Legend has it that the Ojibwa dance was from the Dakota Sioux in 1921.

Each girl made her own dress adorned with multiple rows of metal cones that made a jingling sound when they danced. “Some dancers can have up to 365 jingles on their dress,” related Gardner. Ella made her dress pink with 170 hand sewn bells, and Emily’s had a green cape with a large butterfly on the back called “Me-Mengwoa” which means butterfly. Their shakers were made from old gourds and the drums were crafted from deer hide.

Gardner said she made her buckskin dress “in a traditional way.” She used abalone shells sewn together with pieces of deer skin. “Everything was hand pieced and hand cut,” she said. The girls played a traditional song and danced lightly in a pattern close to the floor with their feet adorned in hand sewn moccasins. Ella carried a feather. “The jingle dance is basically a two step that can develop into fancier steps.”

BARB BARRETT/The Luminary Patricia Gardner from Picture Rocks made her dress by hand from genuine buckskin.

Before the girls danced, Victoria Thompson-Hess read a book, “The Jingle Dancer” by Cynthia Leitich Smith which is available at the library and tells the story of a young girl who made her regalia to dance for her grandmother. Traditional jingle dancers learn to dance in a pattern, never crossing their feet nor do they dance backward or turn a complete circle.

Native Americans believe in all things living and everything has a spirit.

Gardner said her great aunt lived on a reservation in Northern Wisconsin. They celebrate life and view both life and death as an inevitable circle. PowWow circles can act out ancient stories handed down through generations or used for healing rituals. Gardner’s aunt has kept the culture and history alive with her and Gardner, in turn, wants to keep the Native American culture going with her grandchildren. “We do still have a language. We still dance.”

Patricia Gardner's great aunt lived on a reservation in northern Wisconsin and taught her the cultures of the Ojibwa tribe.