Ribbon skirt library a valuable resource for SaskEnergy employees

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Nine people stand in a row outdoors in a golden field. Many wear orange T-shirts and/or colourful ribbon skirts.

SaskEnergy's Indigenous Engagement team is breaking down barriers to participate in ceremony with resources like our Cultural Handbook and a Ribbon Skirt Library.

January 4 is National Ribbon Skirt Day in Canada, an opportunity to celebrate and learn about Indigenous culture. Ribbon skirts are an expression of story, culture, and individuality. Often handcrafted out of fabric and multiple ribbon colours, they are worn by women during and outside of Indigenous ceremonies. They are a symbol of pride and identity.

SaskEnergy has hosted and participated in many Indigenous ceremonies in the past several years, as part of our commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action. With more opportunities to participate in ceremony, the number of questions asked by female staff also grew.

"They wanted to know about proper protocol, what to wear, and other considerations they may need to be aware of," says Joseph Daniels, SaskEnergy’s Director of Indigenous Engagement. It was time to put pen to paper and capture the answers to these questions.

Two women stand close together smiling. Both are wearing a colourful ribbon skirt.

In the summer of 2022, SaskEnergy created our Cultural Handbook, which answers many common questions relating to First Nations and Métis culture, protocol and ceremony. 

As the handbook explains, “Women will wear skirts or dresses extending past the knees to show respect for pipe ceremonies, sweat lodges, and feasts.”

"We realized that not all women who are involved in projects, or wish to participate, have a ribbon skirt of their own," explained Tobi Pelletier, a member of our Indigenous Engagement team. "Our former co-op student makes ribbon skirts and she created our collection. Now, anyone who needs one is welcomed to borrow one from SaskEnergy's library."

Jamie Kilkenny is an engineer at SaskEnergy, and one of many who accesses the Ribbon Skirt Library for ceremonies. 

“Wearing a ribbon skirt makes me feel connected to Mother Earth and to the other attendees. My hope is that it shows respect to the Elders and demonstrates a positive attitude, and an openness to learning and listening,” she says. 

Tobi is happy to be able to share what she has learned with other SaskEnergy employees through the cultural handbook and with hands-on learning at ceremony. 

"It is good to see people involved and learning about culture. Growing up as a Métis person, ceremony wasn’t something we did. As an adult, I learn from others who are happy and open to teaching about their heritage and experience," she says. 

Tobi’s skirt is meaningful to her because the rainbow-coloured ribbons on it were carefully stitched by a cousin in Prince Albert in honour of their late two-spirit uncle.

"Since we've developed the handbook, we've found that people are more receptive and don't have as many questions. With the provision of having ribbon skirts for women, there is an increased level of comfort to participate," says Joseph. 

Since 2022, SaskEnergy has participated in smudge ceremonies, pipe ceremonies, feasts, Grand Entries at powwows, and — most recently — a sweat lodge ceremony