National Ribbon Skirt Day: Celebrating Our Indigenous Heritage


​Wear your ribbon skirts and shirts on Jan. 4​​


​When Isabella Kulak, member of Cote First Nation, wore her ribbon skirt to her southeastern Saskatchewan school's formal day in December 2020, she did so with pride. Ribbon skirts are sacred clothing, representing resilience and strength. However, a teacher assistant told Isabella her ribbon skirt wasn't formal enough and asked her to change.

Isabella's ribbon skirt was handmade by her aunt, who included colours and patterns that represented their culture. By rejecting the skirt as not being formal enough, the teacher had imposed a colonial perspective on acceptable attire, one that was culturally unsafe.

Isabella's story was shared widely across social media. First Nations, Métis and Inuit women across Canada posted photos of themselves wearing ribbon skirts, calling for more education and the creation of a national day of recognition. Isabella's school, Kamsack Comprehensive Institute, eventually apologized to her family. The Institute then declared Jan. 4, 2022, to be Ribbon Skirt Day at the school.

Mary Jane McAllum, a member of Cree First Nation and Manitoba Senator, passed a Bill that declared Jan. 4, 2023, as the first National Ribbon Skirt Day. The federal government shared a statement, reflecting that “this day is to learn more about and to celebrate Indigenous cultures, traditions, histories and contributions to Canada."

In Canadian history, there was a time (1884-1951) when the Indian Act dictated to First Nations peoples that it was illegal to practice our culture. Under the Indian Act, it was also illegal to wear traditional clothes from 1914 to 1951. National Ribbon Skirt Day is a time to celebrate First Nations, Métis and Inuit culture, while remembering the harsh laws imposed upon our way of life. It is also a time for settlers to reflect on cultural safety and how Canadians can continue to work towards Truth and Reconciliation.

First Nations leaders acknowledge that children are leading the way. Our children are speaking up. Knowing our history is critical, so that history does not repeat itself. 

Jan. 4, 2024 marks the second official National Ribbon Skirt Day. The First Nations Health Authority invites you to join us in celebrating the day by wearing your ribbon skirt or ribbon shirt. Share your beautiful ribbon skirts and shirts by tagging @FNHA on social media.

First Nations peoples are history makers!

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