As Canada’s Indigenous population continues to reclaim its lost culture and identity, a Blackfoot youth group named Iiyika’kimaat hosts cultural workshops to help spread that restored knowledge to the community.

This includes a workshop that shows young people how to make ribbon skirts and shirts that ran on Oct. 3-4.

Iiyika’kimaat youth member cutting out material to make a ribbon shirt. PHOTO CREDIT: SHAWANDA BACKFAT

Led by Blackfoot artisan Verona Woods, the workshop featured a lesson on teaching the significance of the clothing trend with the opportunity for youth to sew their own garments.

Until recently, ribbon skirts and shirts were generally used for ceremonial purposes. Today, the garments are not only used in ceremony but worn as a symbol representing resilience, identity and pride. 

“I walk into meetings with my big, beaded earrings on, my turquoise and my ribbon skirts— because I am proud of who I am and nobody is ever going to make me feel less,” said Woods.

It is not certain where ribbon skirts and shirts originated from but the colorful and respectable attire has become extremely popular amongst Indigenous communities. Especially in the past few years as many Indigenous people have reconnected with their culture. 

“My favorite thing that I have learned through this youth program is respect. Respect for myself and respect for all others around me,” says Jenna Wilson, an Iiyika’kimaat member.

Kathrine Billy learning how to make a ribbon skirt at the workshop. PHOTO CREDIT: SHAWANDA BACKFAT

Iiyika’kimaat aims to educate and create a community for Indigenous youth living in Mohkinstsis, or Calgary. Through their cultural workshops, these teens and youth (ages 12-21) learn from Elders and knowledge-keepers about important traditional and cultural practices. 

The daily workshops held by Iiyika’kimaat focus on crafting skills but also on other areas of Indigenous culture like language, sacred teachings and more. This gives its members the opportunity to reconnect with their heritage.

While the chance to make a ribbon shirt or skirt through Iiyika’kimaat Youth Group has passed, you can find a full list of their upcoming events on their facebook page

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