Sokaogon Chippewa Community News

Treaty Day and the Jingle Dress Dancer

By: Barbara With

The journey to create the Jingle Dress Dancer began in November 2017, after Jason Pero was tragically shot in his grandparents’ front yard in Bad River. Community members came together to talk about how to address the issues we face together. After attending several conversations, I realized we have two cultures inhabited with good people who want to know how to promote peace and understanding between us.

The La Pointe Center for the Arts gave the go-ahead to approach Katherine Morrisseau about doing a project to promote unity, healing and to build a bridge back to Madeline Island for the Anishinabe. She envisioned a large-scale jingle dress dancer, dancing on Treaty Day, to heal our communities.

Thanks to our many sponsors, we received the funding to travel to various powwows and other events this summer to collect hand prints of community members to sew on her dress, and to let people know about our project.

At the end of August, we assembled for two weeks on Madeline Island, where more than 65 people came to lend a hand in her creation. Bad River generously allowed us to use the north end of the reservation, and the Town of La Pointe liberally let us work downtown at the Rec Center. Chris Lutter directed the construction; Annie Humphrey designed and sewed the dress herself, and the rest of us helped with the many details of creating her entire body and clothing.

The Dancer debuted on Treaty Day, September 30th, dancing with jingle dress dancers from all across the region and our own local community. Lacrosse, a feast, and music by Long Hairz Collective rounded out the project.

Even though the weather forecast was for overcast skies, the sun was with us all day, blessing us and smiling on our efforts.

The Madeline Island Jingle Dress Dancer will travel the state promoting Wisconsin Act 31, the Wisconsin state law that requires all schools teach an accurate history of Native American culture. After an appearance at the Bayfield Apple Fest this weekend, she will make her home at the Great Lakes Northern Visitor Center. Be sure to stop in and see her when you are next in the area.

Thank you to all to helped, all who danced and sang and drummed, and all who pray for peace. May we find Unity. May we make this a regular gathering every year to celebrate and honor the Treaties.