The story of the Jingle Dress dance begins with Maggie White, a member of the Whitefish Bay First Nation located on the shores of Lake of the Woods in Northwestern Ontario.
There are various accounts of the story but all agree that the dress and the dance originated from a dream. As the story goes, a young girl was sick and gave no signs of recovering. Her distraught father, offered his tobacco and prayed for the Creator’s assistance.
Jingle Dress Dancer (click photo to enlarge)
Assistance came by way of a dream, in which the father was shown how to create this dress and instructed about a dance that would accompany the dress. Upon waking, he set about making the dress and put it on his daughter so that she would dance as he had been instructed to show her. In spite of her illness, she was somehow able to dance and as the dance progressed, she became stronger and was relieved of her illness. The young girl was Maggie White who went on to live a long and fulfilling life sharing the teachings associated with the Jingle dress.
Thus the Jingle Dress dance is considered a healing dance. A sacred obligation is carried by women who wear this dress as Jingle dress dancers are often called upon to dance for a sick or injured community member or to help families who are grieving. The metal cones that adorn the dress were originally made from snuff tin lids and create a beautiful sound when the dancer is moving. The spiritual power of the dress is said to originate as an energy which emanates from the sound of the cones that sing out to the spirits as the dancer moves in time with the drum.
Jingle Dress Regalia
Jingle dresses feature several rows of jingle cones made from metal snuff can lids. Contemporary style jingle dresses are beautifully decorated with ribbon work and appliquéd designs and are worn with matching beaded leggings, moccasins, purse and hair ornaments. Dancers sometimes wear eagle or other feathers and plumes and carry a fan which is raised during the honor beats of the song. The contemporary style of this dance features intricate, controlled footwork and dancers demonstrate poise, endurance and grace.