In Focus: Mille Lacs Indian Museum Celebrates 100th Anniversary Of The Jingle Dress
This year marks the 100th anniversary of a Native American healing tradition: the jingle dress dance. The Mille Lacs Indian Museum and Trading Post is celebrating the anniversary by exploring the history of the jingle dress in a new exhibit.
100 years ago when the global influenza pandemic killed millions worldwide, including thousands of Native Americans, a revolutionary new healing tradition emerged: the jingle dress dance.
Oral histories of the dress vary, but origin stories point to the Mille Lacs Ojibwe community around 1919. The story goes that a young girl was very sick. The girl’s father had a recurring dream of the dresses and dance. He shared his dream with some women from the band and asked them to bring to life the dance that he dreamt about.
“The little girl was there and when she heard those jingles and she heard the songs, she started sitting up and responding,” explained Travis Zimmerman, site manager at the Mille Lacs Indian Museum.
The girl slowly began to watch the dancers.
“Then eventually she joined in and started dancing with them, and so since that time the jingle dress has been known as a healing dress,” added Zimmerman.
The tradition of the jingle dress soon began to spread.
“It was gifted to other tribes around the region, neighbors of the Mille Lacs Band. Now it can be found at powwows throughout Canada and across the United States,” Zimmerman said.
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the jingle dress, the Mille Lacs Indian Museum and Trading Post partnered with the Minnesota Historical Society, the University of Minnesota and Red Lake Ojibwe and Northrop professor Brenda J. Child to create a new exhibit: The Jingle Dress at 100.
“We have a variety of dresses, going back all the way to the 1920s and 1930s, so very early style dresses all the way to contemporary dresses,” Zimmerman said.
The exhibit showcases the history of the jingle dress, as well as how the tradition has evolved over time.
“The jingle dress has really become a symbol at a lot of different movements. There were jingle dress dancers that went out to Standing Rock. There’s been jingle dress dancers that have become part of the movement to raise awareness of murdered and missing indigenous women in the United States,” explained Zimmerman. “It’s really taken on a symbolic role.”
The Jingle Dress at 100 exhibit will run until October of 2020. The public is invited to attend an opening reception at the museum on May 26th. For more information, visit mnhs.org/millelacs.