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Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Tribal Community

Preserving, Protecting and Promoting the Dakota Culture for Future Generations

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Mendota Mdewakanton Newsletter

What do Women Ribbon Skirts and Men Ribbon Shirts mean.

The Dakota ribbon shirt holds deep cultural and historical significance among Native American communities. Let’s explore its rich meaning:
  1. Adaptation and Endurance:
    • Ribbon shirts are a prime example of an adapting and enduring Indian garment. They have evolved over time, blending traditional practices with contemporary fashion.
    • French and English traders introduced colored silk ribbons, which were subsequently adopted into Native traditional practices. These ribbons were used for ceremonial offerings and as decoration.
    • The vibrant colors of the ribbons made them ideal for incorporation into important regalia, including ribbon shirts.
  2. Ribbon Appliqué Art Form:
    • Ribbon appliqué is a significant art form for various tribal groups, especially in the Great Lakes region.
    • The technique involves cutting patterns out of paper and transferring them to ribbons of one color. These ribbons are then appliquéd with invisible stitches onto a background panel of another color.
    • The resulting panels are used to decorate garments such as skirts, breechcloths, leggings, and blankets.
    • Before 1850, ribbon appliqué patterns were geometric and repeating. Afterward, designs became more intricate and curvilinear.
    • The visual reversal of pattern and background changes with the viewer’s perception, creating a dynamic effect.
  3. Pan-Indian Attire:
    • Ribbon shirts for men have become a pan-Indian attire, worn at various special social gatherings.
    • These shirts feature ribbons sewn to the yoke and are often paired with jeans or pants.
    • Contemporary Native fashion designers incorporate ribbon work into their designs, celebrating both tradition and innovation.
  4. Symbolism and Reclamation:
    • The Dakota ribbon shirt represents resilience, survival, and identity.
    • For Indigenous peoples, it signifies personal reclamation—reclaiming identity and wearing it proudly.
    • It serves as a form of armor, connecting wearers to their heritage and cultural strength.

In summary, the Dakota ribbon shirt weaves together history, artistry, and identity, making it a cherished and powerful garment within Native American communities1234.