Native Woman Sewing Together helps build community


SewingThe Bemidji Area Indian Center kicked off its Native Women Together Sewing Project on May 20 at the center in Bemidji. The goal of the group is to teach Native people how to make traditional Native quilts, dance outfits and bound as a community.

Audrey Thayer, organizer of the project and co-founder of the Center, said, “It’s an opportunity to learn how to make quilts, and do the dance outfits. We have patterns of dance outfits there.

We have women who volunteer who are jingle dress

dancers who help the

others. It’s kind of a community effort of everyone helping each other.”

sewing The project is encouraging grandmothers, mothers, and daughter to join

but they say men are also welcome. And during the sewing classes they

have basic Ojibwe language discussions to encourage use of the

language. They say participants don’t need to know the language, or how

to sew, to participate.

The program is free but they ask that people supply their own material.

Sewing machines are available and people are welcome to bring their own.

“We’ve had all types of sewers show up. We bring food, we order pizza. We help each other out on the projects.”

sewing Thayer says most of the women who are coming to the group are working

on dance outfits, and that all types of sewing levels are involved,

from beginner to experienced. She said there is definitely a need for

this type of program. Sighting as an example, Thayer said one woman

came with her two children and asked her to make dance outfits for

them. Thayer told the woman that she wouldn’t make dance outfits for

her, but she would help teach her to make her own.

The project came about with a $5,000 grant from the Mille Lacs Tribe,

which helped buy sewing machines, sewing supplies and rental space.

“I brought it to the board {Mille Lac Tribal Council} and told them I

wanted to develop the program to encourage bounding for the women in

the area. We reallly needed the assistance to start us,” said Thayer.

Thayer said she is gratefull to the Tribe for the start up funds. The

grant is for the first six months and they are looking for funding to

continue the program year around.

sewing Donations of new material for those that can not afford their own materials are welcome.

The Center, located at 303 Railroad Street NE., in downtown Bemidji in

the old warehouse district, will hold the sewing clinic every Tuesday

evening from 5:15 pm to 8:00 pm through the summer season. For more

info, call Audrey Thayer at 218-556-6239.