Vancouver rally to support Indigenous students criticized for wearing traditional regalia to school ceremonies

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      While many people may aspire to make fashion statements, local activists will be making a powerful statement with clothing this week that goes far beyond the appearance of things.

      When Isabella (Bella) Kulak of Cote First Nation, a 10-year-old student in Grade 5 at a school in Kamsack, Saskatchewan, wore a traditional and handmade ribbon skirt to her school’s Formal Day on December 18, an education assistant told her that her attire wasn’t appropriate for the occasion and that her outfit didn't match.

      Ribbon skirts and shirts are traditional clothing worn to Indigenous ceremonies, reflect Indigenous cultural heritage, and have been used to show support for issues such as murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls.

      Although the school apologized, a Facebook group developed, which has since garnered national and international interest and support.

      A demonstration will be held in Vancouver to show support for the growing movement.

      From 12 to 12:45 p.m. on Wednesday (January 20), Indigenous women and families from across the Lower Mainland will gather at Grandview Park (Commercial Drive at Charles Street) to show support for Indigenous students in Canada who have been shamed or prevented from wearing traditional regalia at school ceremonies.

      The rally will include ceremonial drumming and speakers, who are calling for an annual Ribbon Skirt and Shirt Day. 

      "We wear our ribbon skirts and shirts, in solidarity with Bella, her family, and all Indigenous students who have been told they cannot wear cultural regalia, or wear their hair in braids,” Kat Norris, a Coast Salish community activist with the Indigenous Action Movement, stated in a news release. “The ignorance must stop. We will no longer accept a residential school world.”