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Jingle Dress Dancers in the Modern World: Ojibwe People & Pandemics

A Conversation with Brenda J. Child
September 10, 2020

Ojibwe women created a healing tradition in response to the influenza pandemic of 1918-19, which devastated native peoples across the US, Alaska, and Canada. A century later, the tradition is with us as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Jingle Dress Dance Tradition emerged from the Mille Lacs Reservation in central Minnesota and in Whitefish Bay, Ontario. Both communities have similar, strong traditions of Ojibwe song and dance. For the Ojibwe, song and dance have the power to heal, so that art is as necessary as medicine in the worst of times. This documentary explores the origins of the Jingle Dress Dance Tradition with Ojibwe historian Brenda J. Child, who also describes what the tradition means to dancers and Ojibwe people today, and how it has evolved to include modern protest movements such as Standing Rock and calls for racial justice.

The interview was conducted in 2019, just before the COVID-19 pandemic began, and features photographs by Eugene Tapahe and the Jingle Dress Project, taken in the summer of 2020.