Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower, and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people. But stories can also repair that broken dignity.Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author
Stories that move our hearts often stay with us for a long period of time. This week one of those kinds of stories emerged from a small community in our province about a young girl who had been shamed for wearing a traditional Indigenous ribbon skirt to a school event prior to the Christmas break. Her auntie had made this beautiful piece of clothing intended to symbolize her strength, womanhood, and her First Nations identity.
This young girl set off for school excited by the beauty of her skirt and pride in being able to wear this sacred piece of clothing. Shamed by a school employee for not wearing the right type of clothing, this child returned home defeated and confused. Her auntie used social media to share what had happened at school and to reach out to women to share the meaning and power of the ribbon skirt.
What transpired was really a movement where many Indigenous women posted and shared photographs of their own ribbon skirts from around the globe. These garments are works of art and the pride with which they are worn was evident in the photos that were shared. What mattered to me the most about this story was that the focus was not on the “shaming incident” at the school but the positive way in which so many women reached out to share their pride in their heritage and in the power of the ribbon skirt.
Listening to an interview with this girl, her enthusiasm and excitement from all of the posts her family received, it was hard not to smile and appreciate the positivity that was created. Pride in her First Nations ribbon skirt and sense of belonging with other girls and women from around the world became the message of the story.
When it was time to return to school this week, her family and members of her First Nation community organized a march back to the school all wearing their ribbon skirts or ribbon shirts. Accompanied by the performance of a drumming group and the attendance of chiefs from surrounding First Nations, this young girl returned to school with a renewed sense of pride in who she is and accompanied by the positive power of her community.
My thoughts have returned to this story many times since I heard it. Messages of positivity, forgiveness, and reconciliation were delivered with pride and a power that resonates.