Sewing machines hum. People talk quietly about the week as they work. The younger generation in attendance learns more than just how to sew a skirt—they are experiencing an important part of their indigenous culture.
The Indigenous Association’s new regalia class, happening every other Tuesday at their downtown location above the Plains Museum Center for Creativity, offers Fargo-Moorhead’s native population a chance to gather, share and create. It removes barriers for those looking to connect with their culture by taking part in traditional powwow dances.
“The regalia for certain dances can be quite ornate,” said Brandon Baity, interim executive director for the Indigenous Association. “And for those that don’t have access to regalia or the ability to make it themselves, it might be that little thing that’s holding them back from exploring their heritage.”
The Indigenous Association was founded in 2020 to help provide programming and opportunities for the Fargo-Moorhead native population to come together.
“We felt that a lot of help that was out there for Native Americans was focused on crisis services,” Baity said. “This solved individual problems but didn’t necessarily bring the community together. The Indigenous Association provides a bridge to crisis services, but our main focus is on sharing cultural knowledge with the next generation. We offer a space where people can come together.”
As part of this mission, the Indigenous Association works to secure funding for programs and equipment that will bring native communities together and strengthen the bond between generations. The association works to provide programming for free or at a reduced cost, to encourage everyone to participate. Programming builds on previous grants and acquisitions and works to provide more opportunities for outreach. For example, the association purchased 17 sewing machines for a sewing circle with a grant from the Department of Health. These machines are also being used in the regalia class, as well as other crafting collaborations. An additional $1,000 from the Cass Clay chapter of the Awesome Foundation allowed organizers to purchase many of the base materials for the regalia class, removing the monetary barrier for many. Pieces will also be donated to area indigenous education programs to help local students take part in cultural activities.
“It’s about giving people access to their culture,” Baity said.
Creating a Community
In addition to the regalia class, the Indigenous Association offers a number of other services aimed at providing education, resources, and support for our Indigenous community. Young mothers can find information on breastfeeding and early-childhood nutrition from a registered lactation consultant that understands the unique challenges Native American mothers face.
With the regalia class, sewing circle, and open crafting night, there are plenty of opportunities for individuals and families to come together. These nights, the space is alive with laughter and community. Young children play while parents and grandparents share stories, experiences, and crafting tips.
“A lot was done to essentially kill the native culture,” Baity said. “And while that is in the past, the effects still negatively impact our community. We are working every day to reverse some of that damage. To offer healing to our community and bring the people back together through our programming, outreach and just offering a safe space where everyone is welcome.”
Building for the Next Generation
There is a belief among many native cultures that you should not focus on the current generation. Instead, look to lay the groundwork so that the seventh generation to follow you thrives. That philosophy is at the heart of the Indigenous Association’s efforts.
Programming brings together young and old. It provides a sense of community for those deep in their roots and those just discovering their heritage. It is a place where knowledge is passed down and support is given for healing and growth.
The group hosts a variety of programming from crafting to community meals as well as entrepreneurial education opportunities and is always looking to provide needed resources.
“Everything starts with understanding,” Baity said. “We want everyone in the Fargo-Moorhead area to understand our mission and come together with our community.”
For more information on the regalia class or other programming at the Indigenous Association, check out their Facebook.
Facebook | /IndigenousAssociation
The Cass-Clay chapter of the Awesome Foundation awards a $1,000 gift each month for awesome ideas of all sorts. Grant recipients do not need to be associated with a nonprofit. Applications can be made at awesomefoundation.org/en/ chapters/cassclay.