Stratford woman lends a hand to the Ribbon Skirt project to inspire young Indigenous women

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A teenage girl from a First Nations community in southwestern Ontario relies on help from others, including a woman from Stratford, to complete a project to help young Indigenous women proclaim their heritage culture and pride.

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Jaylynn Wolfe, Miss Kettle and Stony Point Jr. Princess, 13, created the Ribbon Skirt Project in July to have 215 ribbon skirts made to give to Indigenous youth 18 and under. The total is significant because it coincides with the number of bodies found at a former residential school in British Columbia earlier this summer, which has led to many similar finds across the country.

“These are the kids whose culture was taken away from them in residential schools,” said Laura Wolfe, Jaylynn’s mother. “A lot of (Aboriginal girls) don’t have their culture or their language, and they don’t realize it because it’s no longer there.

“The hope is that a child will take hold of it and that their journey will begin with their culture and have that connection. (The skirts) will inspire and allow that connection to happen. It could make a huge difference in the lives of many little girls.

While the family lives in Kincardine, Jaylynn was named Junior Princess of Kettle and Stony Point – near Ipperwash – in 2019, and she has used her position to connect with the First Nations community through various engagements. public. She has offered fringed dresses and ribbon skirts to young girls before, but not at this point, which is why she sought help on her latest move.

“This is probably the biggest (project) I have done,” she said. “I am very grateful to everyone who helped me.

“I hope more people get involved in their culture for more generations as well.”

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Karen Mills of Stratford, whose origins are not native, quickly volunteered her services to make some of the skirts, which have different meanings for different tribes.

“It’s a way for people to find their connection through reconciliation and to (realize) the impact they can have for Indigenous peoples in Canada,” said Wolfe. “It’s important for them to be a part of it, and we’ve seen people from all over Ontario join this project because they see the importance of it and it’s something they want to do. “

Mills started sewing when she moved to Stratford in 2000 and began making quilts. She already had enough materials left to make five ribbon skirts, using her free time for a month – with Wolfe’s guidance.

“I’ve always been drawn to the values ​​of our Indigenous peoples and their spiritual connection to the natural world,” Mills said. “I just wanted to support and encourage them in the way that I can.”

While the goal is to collect 215 skirts for donation around the Winter Solstice on December 21, Wolfe said there will be nothing more left along the Pow Wow Trail during various powwows in the south. -Western Ontario.

“It gives First Nations youth a connection to their culture,” Wolfe said, “because not everyone has this opportunity. “

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