Beading class connects urban Indigenous women to their culture
This Forest Lawn program is about more than just artistic expression
Indigenous women are gathering at a women's centre in southeast Calgary to learn about the art of beading and a whole lot more.
Each beading class at the Awo Taan Healing Lodge is opened with a prayer by a First Nation elder and a traditional smudging ritual.
Participants are beading red dress pins for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, while being offered a meal, free child care, and all the supplies.
"This is something we always wanted to do at Awo Taan, it just started off with staff who had the heart and passion," program co-ordinator Samantha Efthimiou explained.
The program integrates First Nation cultural teachings with the artistic learnings.
"This is very important. This is where the teachings of our grandmothers come into every day, where we can proudly wear our skirts, and our beaded earrings and moccasins and show the world we are proud Indigenous women and this is who we are. This is our identity of our people," she said.
It's about going back to cultural roots but in an urban environment.
"Awo Taan Healing Lodge strives to nurture all families living in peace and this is a very therapeutic way," Efthimiou said.
Basic sewing skills are also on offer, with traditional ribbon skirts.
Doreen Jacobs, the child wellness support worker at the lodge, says it's about passing on knowledge and pride and keeping people grounded.
"It keeps them proud of who they are, their identity. They can connect with each other and pass it on to their children, their grandchildren," Jacobs said.
"I think it is the most beautiful part of self-care."
It started with one lodge staff member sharing knowledge with another, and took off from there.
"They're still keeping that beading forward in the city because a lot of the agencies don't provide this cultural aspect for our women," Jacobs said.
The group meets Tuesday afternoons and it's open to Indigenous and non-Indigenous women in the Calgary area.