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Our Cultural Traditions Served to Heal Us
Cultural practices tell Indigenous Peoples that concern and care for each other are how we understand the concept of “All My Relations.” These humble practices, however, were turned against us as the coronavirus preyed upon and spread among those gathered at social events and at ceremony. But we are resilient!
Editor’s Note: How will 2020 go down in history? In the Hindsight 20/20 project from The Colorado Magazine, twenty of today's most insightful historians and thought leaders imagine themselves in 2120, looking back on 2020 and sharing their visions of how that year will stand the test of time.
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, we learned in 2020 that “Being a Good Relative” meant we had to refrain from hosting or participating in gatherings—family and social events, ceremonies, and places of mourning. Out of concern for the spread of the virus, that year marked the first time that summer and winter powwows were canceled. “Being a Good Relative” meant that tribal leadership made drastic and difficult decisions to forestall the spread of the virus; several tribal governments issued curfew hours, weekend lockdowns, or even checkpoints at reservation entry points. These precautions were not easy to follow, but they were all worth the effort to keep tribal Elders, many of them Indigenous language speakers and the most vulnerable, safe from harm.
That pandemic year also revealed that as Indigenous Peoples—we are resilient! Throughout the year, while we were socially distancing, we turned to our cultural arts, knowledge, and wisdom not just as a means of constructively passing time but as a way to heal and pray for our loved ones and those we lost. “Beading Circles” using video conferencing began bringing together beginner and expert artists to talk, share, and instruct others. There were webinars on traditional and medicinal plants and foods, Native wellness, and community health trainings, to name but a few. While the virus ensured that there would be no powwows that year, our collective resiliency responded with socially distant powwows shared to social media showcasing the talents of many dancers.
Additionally, the “Jingle Dress” dance also shared on social media frequently that year reminded us of the origins of the dance among the Ojibwe Peoples: A man had a dream in which four dresses made of red, yellow, blue, and green fabric were adorned with small tin cones. The man told his wife that the female dancers in his dream danced straight forward, never backwards, swiftly, and with their arms on their hips. After he told his wife of his dream, she and her friends made the four jingle dresses. Sometime later, a young girl who was ill attended a drum ceremony with her family, and upon hearing the sound coming from the jingle dresses of the dancers, was healed. And so, the Jingle Dress dance became known as a healing dance.
The first appearance of the Jingle Dress dance was among the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota in the 1920s during the Spanish Influenza. This style of dancing has remained with the Ojibwe Peoples since then and has been shared and adopted by other Native Nations. Just as the Jingle Dress dance served to heal—so, too, did our cultural traditions for the next 100 years, and ever since.
More from the Hindsight 20/20 project in The Colorado Magazine
Looking Backward: Lessons from a Pandemic If we take a backward glance at 2020 from the standpoint of 2120—never mind how we got here—what do we see? And what perspective have we gained in the century since? Colorado’s State Historian takes a moment to ponder some lessons learned.
The Past is PresentEvery generation sees itself at the center of history, and Americans in 2020 were no different. But as time passed, many were disappointed to realize that change was less profound than they had hoped. Still, it might have been comforting to learn that they were part of a much longer effort to define their nation.
A TikTok Pandemic StoryIn 2020, a generation of young people experiencing isolation and loneliness in the midst of a pandemic seized on a new platform called TikTok. This new generation of media creators transformed trauma into creativity and, ultimately, connection.