'We should not have to cover up': Ojibway artist beads underwear and shuts down online critics

An Ojibway artist recently won a judge's choice award for a piece that she’s calling “decolonize your gitch.” It's a bra and thong that is beaded with traditional floral designs and has received positive feedback, but also has some people saying that she’s “promoting violence towards native women.”

Creator of Decolonize Your Gitch piece wants to see Lady Gaga or Dita Von Teese show off work

"The floral on there is very traditional in form, but the colors wouldn't be something that you would find on a bandolier bag," said Peters. (Susie Johnson)

An Ojibway artist is taking a feminist stand against online critics, who say she should be ashamed of her recent award-winning piece called Decolonize Your Gitch.

Summer Peters recently won a judge's choice award at a U.S. art festival for her artwork, a bra and thong beaded with traditional floral designs. 

After she posted it to social media, "I would say 99% of the people liked it," Peters said. 

But others objected to the piece, accusing her of "promoting violence towards native women."

"There was a guy that said I should be ashamed of myself, my family should be ashamed of me, that I was nuts, that I was crazy, that my beadwork was shitty," said Peters.

In response to her critics, Peters wrote in an Instagram post:

"I will take all the negative criticism so that Native lady artists in the future will maybe have an easier time … women should not be told what to do, what to wear in attempts to avoid sexual violation, we should not have to cover up and/or NOT wear a pretty bra & panty set or bikini because we might be violated and it would be all of our faults."

"People follow me [on social media] because they know that I'm contemporary. They know that I'm ballsy and bold," she said.

Summer Peters is hoping to inspire other Indigenous women to push the boundaries of Native art. (Andrea Noline)

'I see it as a feminist stand'

Peters is from Mount Pleasant, Michigan from the Saginaw Chippewa reservation.

She grew up watching and learning from her mother and grandmother, who both beaded to supplement their income.

The mother of three has been beading since she was eight years old and knows that her style is not for everyone.

"I wanted to make it because being a woman, you ... feel like we have to be ashamed of our bodies. And I don't really think it has to be that way," said Peters.

"I see it as a feminist stand … I really think it is, because I don't think we have to be ashamed of our bodies," she said.

Peters entered Decolonize Your Gitch into the Heard Art Museum's Indian Art Fair and Market 2017 competition and won a Judge's Choice Award.

She is not sure what she is going to do with the piece, but is open to having it displayed. Ideally, she would like to see it being worn by a performer — perhaps someone like Lady Gaga or Dita Von Teese.


Lenard Monkman is Anishinaabe from Lake Manitoba First Nation, Treaty 2 territory. He was an associate producer with CBC Indigenous.