Tia Wood Heads a Sea of Red Jingle Dancers 2017 GON Tribute

First Nations Canadian Cree, Tia Wood, organizes a red dress jingle dance to remember missing and murdered indigenous women. Over 150 jingle dancers dressed in red take part in spectacular display!

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Since 1982, the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow in Albuquerque has grown to become one of the world’s most recognized annual festivals (and undoubtedly the largest pow wow). For the 2017 pow wow, 17-year-old jingle dancer Tia Wood of Saddle Lake Cree Nation, Alberta was selected as Head Young Lady Dancer. She used that position, and the spotlight it provided in a spectacular way to bring attention to the nearly 1,000 missing and murdered indigenous women from both the United States and Canada.

Three years before Tia’s 2017 tribute, Métis artist Jaime Black created “The REDress Project” to bring attention to the issue of missing or murdered Aboriginal women across Canada. She collected over 600 red dresses by community donation to install in public spaces throughout Winnipeg and across Canada as a visual reminder of the growing number of murdered or missing women, drawing attention to the gendered and racialized nature of violent crimes against Aboriginal women and to “evoke a presence through the marking of absence”.

Moved by Ms. Black’s REDress Project, Tia asked dancers who wished to participate in her special as Head Young Woman to wear red jingle dresses. In keeping with Tia’s dance specialty, the special was to be an old-style jingle dance. The result was an event that awed those who witnessed it, either in person or on YouTube as the following video will attest.

Tia Sings
To start off her special, Tia Wood sang to the crowd from the center of the arena as jingle dancers dressed in red ringed the stadium floor shoulder-to-shoulder. Her voice is as beautiful as her championship jingle dance style!

Solo Dance
After the singing performance, Tia danced solo to the first song, making her way to the middle of the ring of dancers. Many of the dancers put together their red dresses overnight so that they could take part in the special.

Let the competition begin!
The next video and the ones that follow show the old style jingle dance competition through the run-offs to the naming of the winners.

Competition Run-off 1: First Run-off song.

Competition Run-off 2: Narrowed down now for final song!

Time to select the winners.

Immediately after the dance, Wood, who comes from a family of singers and dancers, wrote on her Facebook page, “this was such a dream come true to witness all these red dresses and energy? I’ve always dreamt of putting this special on and I did. I’m so grateful I got this opportunity. Aiyhiy. In honour of the missing and murdered indigenous women.”

As lawyers, tribal members, and families continue to advocate and work for justice, Tia hopes the Gathering of Nations special will help heal those devastated by violence against indigenous women, as it has healed indigenous people for generations.