Native Woman Sewing Together helps build community


The 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.


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