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Indigenous author writes children’s book about healing power of the Jingle Dress Dance

This is the cover art of an Indigenous children's book titled “Why We Dance: A Story of Hope and Healing." In the center is an illustration of a young girl dancing, with others dancing in the background on both sides of her.
Courtesy Of Abrams Books
“Why We Dance: A Story of Hope and Healing" follows a young girl’s relationships with her mother, aunt and cousin as she gets ready for the Jingle Dress Dance.

An Indigenous author recently released a children’s book on the Jingle Dress Dance, which is a ceremonial dance of healing and prayer.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Deidre Havrelock saw countless videos online of Indigenous women and girls Jingle Dress dancing for the world’s healing. The dance, which involves light footwork in rhythm with drumming and singing, is characterized by the tinkling sounds made by the metal cones on a dancer’s dress.

The century-old tradition originated during the influenza pandemic of 1918, when women of the Mille Lacs Band of the Ojibwe tribe practiced a healing ritual known as the Jingle Dress Dance.

“I was like, no wonder it's just so beautiful, right?” said Havrelock, a member of the Saddle Lake Cree Nation in Alberta, Canada. “It's 100 years later, and they're still doing this – even more so, like, it's just exploded. And, I thought, I wanted to capture this historic moment through a picture book.”

With that, Havrelock wrote “Why We Dance: A Story of Hope and Healing.” The story, lyrically and rhythmically written, follows a young girl’s relationships with her mother, aunt and cousin as she gets ready for the Jingle Dress Dance and overcomes her nerves.

Illustrator Aly McKnight, a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes in Idaho, said she wanted to capture the beauty and joy of the Jingle Dress Dance with colorfully detailed illustrations.

“Celebrating healing is such a needed thing in this world, just considering what we deal with on a daily basis,” said McKnight, who grew up in Fallon, Nevada and currently lives in Provo, Utah. “And kids need that – adults need that.”

“Why We Dance” is available in bookstores and online.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Kaleb is an award-winning journalist and KUNR’s Mountain West News Bureau reporter. His reporting covers issues related to the environment, wildlife and water in Nevada and the region.

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