Indigenous Wearable Art Class at Bedford Road - Saskatoon Public Schools Foundation
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Indigenous Wearable Art Class at Bedford Road

This class gave my students an appreciation for Indigenous cultures that they did not have before. It has given them knowledge that they are now equipped with as they enter into adulthood that inevitably opens up their perspectives on what it means to be Canadian, to be Indigenous and proud, and what reconciliation means. This is invaluable.

Kim Morrison, Bedford Road Teacher

Bedford Road Collegiate was the recipient of a Programs of Excellence grant for an Indigenous Wearable Art Class.  The grant was able to be used over 2 school years and in 2 classrooms, with teachers Diane Newton and Kim Morrison.

Students had the opportunity to learn and experiment with sewing, beading poppies and jewelry, working with leather and knitting. Students were very excited to participate in the beading project. Only 5 students out of the entire class had much experience with beading, but they proved to be leaders in the class. Each day, students would gather their supplies, and sit around the tables, working diligently, but also sharing in meaningful dialogue with their classmates, many of whom they would not normally speak with.

The student with the most experience with beading and leatherwork, a senior student who took Indigenous Wearable Art 10 with Newton, created this beautiful shoulder bag. The bad itself is made of leather and is lined with the gorgeous purple fabric on the front flap. This student took many hours to bead the strap of the bag, as well as the edging of the flap.  The small tassels on the bottom corner of the bag are made from shells and beads that she brought here from her home on reserve in Montana.

On numerous occasions, students informed their teacher that they enjoyed the beading the most out of all the class’ projects. They expressed that they found the repetitiveness of the motions very relaxing, and the detailed nature of the work, or the precision that is required, allowed them to focus entirely on the task at hand. In turn, they were able to forget about challenges, stresses, and worries they faced in the outside world while they were beading.

Four students who had never beaded before told their teacher once they were finished the beading project that they were very excited to bring this skill home into their spare time. They asked me where they could find the materials to do this as a hobby outside of school, and I was able to direct them to the Bedford Road Indigenous Student Advocate who was able to collect funds for students to bead as an extracurricular activity.

In addition, students felt it the class was a safe space to ask questions about cultural appropriation.  They were able to have meaningful conversations about this topic that students will carry into their daily lives and share with their loved ones. Students were also exposed to very valuable Indigenous knowledge and demonstrated an appreciation for these traditions and skills. This knowledge and appreciation is the first step on the road to reconciliation.

One student with beading experience designed these earrings and made them with the help of her mother, who is a skilled beading artist. She was very proud of her mother’s experience and skill in this area. This particular student struggles to be engaged in class the majority of the time, but during this unit she was smiling and went out of her way to proudly show me her creation. She was incredibly proud that this skill had passed down from her mother to her, and that she was able to display her work in class. These earrings were a statement of both personal style and identity for her.

Results of the class:

  • Students became more open and friendly in class and worked together to help each other.
  • Sharing a variety of ideas and projects peaked student interests and sparked sharing of personal skills.
  • Giving students choice and voice both strengthened engagement and influence by building confidence for future successes.
  • Students were able to engage in very positive and relationship-building sessions with Indigenous leaders within the school by hearing their stores and getting to share their own.

A student took her new beading skills and used them in a recycled project.  Here she is embroidering a jean jacket with beads on the back to spice it up. This student was extremely enthusiastic about her new beading skills, and eager to put them to use.