A regalia lending library in Fort Folly First Nation in New Brunswick is providing access to cultural attire for anyone who needs it and teaching people to make their own.
Events like ancestor ceremonies or sweat lodges may require women to wear ribbon skirts. Nicole Porter, the project lead, said she would often lend others spare skirts she had. She realized there was a need in the Mi’kmaw community about 30 kilometres southwest of Moncton for people to access regalia, and now the regalia library loans ribbon shirts and skirts.
“It’s making them feel welcomed and able to come and participate in cultural activities that I hold,” said Porter, who works as the cultural co-ordinator for Mi’gmaq Child and Family Services.
Anyone in need can come to Nukumi House, a family resource centre, and request a ribbon skirt or shirt for as long as they need. They can then return it, exchange it or make a new one.
Porter will guide anyone looking to make a new one.
“That’s the rewarding part of making these skirts for others to wear, is to see their face light up when they get to wear it,” said Porter.
One person she helped make a skirt was her cousin, Laura Lymburner. Lymburner said that when she started she didn’t know how to sew, but with the guidance of Porter, she made her first ribbon skirt.
“I’m really happy that I have my own creation that I can wear to ceremonies,” said Lymburner.
“It brought tears to my eyes.”
She said her community has seen a resurgence of cultural interest in the last couple of years and she’s proud that children in her community will have access to regalia anytime they want it.
Lymburner said making her ribbon skirt “really helped provide me with a sense of my role as a woman in my community, that we are sacred, that we are powerful and it’s really tying the culture back to me, through this skirt.”
Porter said reducing, reusing and recycling is a big part of the project, too. She said waste reduction is a way of honouring Mother Earth so she tries to find ways to use any extra material, like making child-sized ribbon skirts. They have a bin of small fabric pieces that will be used for quilting or other arts and crafts.
So far the library has three finished skirts and seven ribbon shirts, but Porter is working to increase that inventory.
In the end, she just wants to see people taking pride in their culture.
“It shows the youth that are coming up to be proud of who they are and to be proud to be L’nu,” said Porter.
L’nu is the Mi’kmaw word for a person of the land.