‘Walk A Mile In A Ribbon Skirt’ event educates on prejudice against Indigenous women

In late August, after attending a rally for Indigenous rights, wearing her first ribbon skirt, Chevy Rabbit went to have dinner on Jasper Avenue with other women also dressed in ribbon skirts.

Her experience turned sour as customers laughed at their traditional skirts that are symbolic of surviving cultural genocide. 

“We got discriminated for the dresses and they laughed at them basically,” Rabbit recalls. 

On Saturday, Rabbit and many other Indigenous women, dressed in brightly coloured skirts, took to Sir Winston Churchill Square for an event called “Walk a Mile in a Ribbon Skirt.”

The event was intended to highlight the significance of the skirts and to help non-Indigenous people understand and counteract the prejudices Indigenous women face when they wear them in urban spaces.

Katherine Swampy, city councillor for Samson Cree Nation and a traditional story holder for the ribbon skirt, shared stories behind the skirt and what each colour represented. 

“The red ribbon skirts are standing in solidarity with the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and men and the yellow ribbon skirts, they signify a survival of suicide, either they, themselves, have attempted or they’ve lost somebody to suicide,” Swampy explained.

“The purple represents a lot of love and a leadership, a voice for the women. And I myself, as a councillor from Samson Cree Nation, I chose to wear the purple.”

She said the occasions the skirts are worn also differ for different people. Some prefer to wear them only for ceremony, others, such as herself, will wear them every day.

Chevy Rabbit wearing her rainbow-coloured ribbon skirt at the “Walk a Mile in a Ribbon Skirt” event on Saturday. (Scott Neufeld/ CBC )

Rabbit wears a rainbow skirt to symbolize her journey of transitioning and two spirit inclusion. 

“Residential schools, they taught a lot of Indigenous communities how to hate gender diverse people and a part of my role as a two-spirit advocate is to bring back two-spirit dignity and respect within communities,” she said. 

The event included speeches and an online virtual challenge where individuals were asked to create a short video or a photo with their ribbon skirts and post it under the hashtag #MyRibbonSkirt.

Katherine Swampy, councillor for Samson Cree Nation and a traditional story holder for the ribbon skirt, speaking at “Walk a Mile in a Ribbon Skirt” event on Saturday. (Scott Neufeld/ CBC)

Swampy said she hopes it encourages women to appreciate their culture and to come and participate. 

“I’m hoping that it encourages them to wear ribbon skirts every day,” she said. 

“It’s a way of life. It’s not just something you do once in a while. It’s a part of our identity. This is who we are.”

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