If you've ever been to a powwow, you might have heard the tinkling sound of the Jingle Dress Dane. Historically used for healing, the Jingle Dress is now part of a dance that honors and celebrates Ojibwe culture and tradition.
According to Native American legend, the Jingle Dress was first made to cure an Ojibwe medicine man’s granddaughter from a serious illness. The medicine man asked the spirits to send him a vision of how to heal her. In a dream, the spirits showed him how to make the Jingle dress and how to perform the corresponding Jingle Dress dance.
Soon after, the granddaughter wore the Jingle Dress in an Ojibwe dance circle. During her first loop around the dance circle, she had to be carried. As the dance went on, she progressively got better. During her second loop, she could walk with assistance; during the third, she could walk by herself; and by the fourth lap, she was dancing the Jingle Dance entirely on her own.
The Jingle Dress regalia is very colorful and decorated with beading, ribbons, and appliques. Those who participate in the Jingle Dress Dance today – all women – are dressed with matching barrettes, purses, leggings, and moccasins. The dress is also covered in hundreds of jingles made into triangles.
Jingle Dress Dancers move in time with drums, and their feet land in rhythm. A dancer normally steps in zigzag patterns to represent the path of life. During the louder beats, also known as honor beats, dancers raise their feather fans.
The Jingle Dress Dance is one of the most well-known Native American dances. Jingle Dress Dancers today are called upon whenever someone needs physical, mental, or emotional healing.