Jingle Dancing

Jingle Dancing

The PreK-7th graders read the picture book Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Letitch Smith during their time together on October 10th as part of exploring how listening helps build relationships. This book was also selected in honor of Indigenous Peoples' Day on October 11th. It’s a story about a group of Indigenous Women who are using the tradition of Jingle Dancing to help the world heal the fear caused by the pandemic. The dresses, also known as Prayer Dresses, mimic the sound of falling rain and bring a sense of peace. This tradition originated with the Ojibwe people during the 1918 flu pandemic, so it is apt that it is having a resurgence during these challenging times. The Youth Group also learned about Jingle Dancers the following Sunday.

I learned a great deal by researching this tradition in preparation for these two lessons. You might also find it a meaningful thing to explore on your own or with your family. You can start by watching this read-aloud of Jingle Dancer. One of the important things when we talk about Indigenous Culture or People is that we sometimes fall into talking about it in past tense -this story allows us to connect to something that emerged during the last pandemic and is still being used traditionally in Indigenous celebrations and revived by current Indigenous activists to reclaim and tell stories of their people.  Indigenous People never went away. This video about the present-day Jingle Dress Project is another good and engaging resource, and you can dive deeper with these profiles of four Jingle Dancers

One thing I appreciate about this work is that I am often learning right alongside our children and youth as we explore new concepts together. I’m glad I had the opportunity to listen to and learn from these dancers that are taking the traditions of their ancestors and putting them to work to help our society today.


Karen Magoon Pearson is Orange Coast Unitarian Universalist Church's Director of Religious Education.