The Jingle Dress

The Jingle Dress Dance – which originated with the Ojibwe tribe in the early part of the 20th century and is widely seen in pow wows throughout the United States today – is celebrated with a June 15, 2019 Google Doodle.

Fittingly, the Google Doodle was created by an Ojibwe guest artist named Joshua Mangeship Pawis-Steckley. According to Google, the dance was first prevalent in the 1920s in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Ontario. Today, it’s one of several forms of dancing commonly seen in competitive pow wows. It is a style of dance performed by female dancers in First Nations communities.r!
The dance also serves to affirm the power of Native American women,” Google noted with the Doodle.

Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Jingle Dress Dance Involves Metal Cones That Are Sewn Into Outfits

The Jingle Dress dancers are a beautiful sight to watch and to hear. Unlike other forms of pow wow dancing, the dresses make a very distinctive sound that is evocative to listen to, especially when it’s happening in unison.

According to Indian Country Today, the Jingle Dress Dance is a pow wow dance in which “rows of metal cones” – which are called “ziibaaska’iganan” – are attached to female dancers’ dresses.

According to powwows.com, which adds that they are hung with ribbon that is then sewn to the dress. The can lids are purposely placed close enough together so that they will clank when the dancers move, producing the melodic clanking sound.
2. There Is an Ojibwe Origin Story About the Jingle Dress Dance

An Ojibwe origin story explains how the jingle dress came to be. According to Google, the story holds that an Ojibwe girl had fallen ill. Her father saw the jingle dress in a vision. In another slightly different version of the story, it’s the girl’s grandfather who has the vision.

According to the story, the father felt that if the girl danced this dance in the jingle dress and “always keep one foot on the ground,” she would be healed. She did in fact recover, and she then created a Jingle Dress Dance Society with friends, Google reports. Another version of the story holds that four women made their jingle dresses seen in the vision and danced for the sick child, at which point she healed.
3. The Ojibwe Artist Who Made the Google Doodle Says It Represents the Strength of Indigenous Women

The Soaring Eagle Sentinel vividly describes how the dancers carry themselves during the Jingle Dress Dance: “With one hand that usually stays on the dancer’s hip, holding onto her purse the whole time while the other hand holds the eagle tail feather fan as she slowly lifts and spins her fan throughout her dance routine.”
4. The Dress Has Spread From the Ojibwe People to Other Tribes

According to Catherine 
Tynjala explained that, although the Jingle Dress Dance has its origins in Ojibwe culture, and “almost every Ojibwe or Dakota powwow includes the jingle dress dance,” today it has spread to other tribes and become “pan-Indian.”

According to Tynjala, there are different versions of the dance and jingle dress. “Light footwork” is also an important characteristic of the dance, she writes, noting that the dresses resembled the flapper dresses common in the era from which they originated.
5. Indigenous People Transcended Discrimination to Continue the Jingle Dress Dance

According to Minnesota Good Age, in 1921, shortly after the dress was created, the U.S. government “issued a new order banning traditional dancing among American Indian communities.”

Despite this order, the dance persists to this day as the competitive pow wow circuit has bloomed throughout the United States. Minneapolis Public Schools explains in a handout on Jingle Dress Dancing that “dancing is considered a medicinal connection to the earth and every living relative.”

Author: neaseno

I was born on Powers Bluff in Wood County, Wisconsin, into a traditional community of Neshnabek. I was raised speaking only native languages, and learned to speak English upon entering school at the age of 6. As of this writing, I am one of 5 remaining Heritage Fluent Speakers of Potawatomi.

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