During this past Saturday’s Ribbon Skirt Workshop held at the Bella Vista Inn in Humboldt, Anishinaabe elder and knowledge keeper Judy Pelly brought  powerful messages of hope and healing to those in attendance. Judy Pelly has been a Dean of Instruction at the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technology, a founding force of mental health and healing programs with the Saskatchewan Health Authority, and is a sought after speaker on pathways to reconciliation through the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s Calls to Action. 

Her messages come through the lens of a turbulent personal history. A residential school survivor, Pelly talked firsthand about the trauma she had suffered as a young girl during her time in the school. She spoke of how hard it is for a culture who has been taught to “not show love”. Relationships with family and loved ones are forever damaged, and the emotionally dampening effects of alcohol and drugs become the only solace. Pelly recounted her own struggles, and those of her son, and their victory over the darkness which has led to her sobriety and her engagement with teaching others. 

Pelly also recounted the tale of her niece (granddaughter in the Indigenous and Metis cultural views), Isabella Kulak. She recalled the devastation Isabella felt for being shamed at wearing a ribbon skirt to a holiday formal day at her school. She also talked about the quiet and resolved rallying of her family and the First Nations communities that ultimately led to the declaration of January 4th as National Ribbon Skirt Day. 

Enjoy the two part presentation by Judy Pelly from her visit to Humboldt on January 28. Part 1 of her presentation addresses her own history. Part 2 recalls the events surrounding Isabella and her ribbon skirt.