Interviewer: Trudy Sable
Place: Eskasoni, Cape Breton
TS: Georgina, you are a dance shawl maker. How do you decide on the kind of shawl to make?
GD: People usually have their own ideas about what they want. I donít just make shawls to make them, people have to order them. They do it for spiritual reasons and healing purposes like a young girl coming out of Rehab, Alcohol and Drug Centre. They come over and they have colours, usually given to them by a spiritual healer and they will order what works for them spiritually.
For example, purple is a healing colour. I just talked to a lady last Sunday and she ordered a quilt in three shades of purple. She is going for cancer surgery at the end of the month and she wants those colours. And with the white bear on it. Thatís medicine.
TS: Can you tell me a bit more about how they get their colours?
GD: Some women go on a fast, just a healing; just like you would as a survivor of the residential school. They go to a lot of these healing practices. Our people hold the healing ceremonies either in a tepee or in a sweat lodge. They get their colours and their spirit guide.
TS: Tell me about the special shawl you made for Sarah Denny, the one she had on when they buried her.
GD: The shawl I made for my Aunt Sarah Ö was a totally different situation. I wanted to make that as a gift for her. I put an Eagle on hers and it was all done in little pieces. Sarah was an incredible woman; she opened a lot of eyes amongst the younger people. Long before being Native was popular Sarah and her husband, Noel R. Denny and the children were practising culture. They deserve a lot of recognition.
TS: How did you get started making shawls?
GD: I started making regalia because Donna Augustine, from New Brunswick asked me to make a shawl for her. I did that and next thing you know I was doing it for a living.
I started doing this more as a healing to try and encourage our people. It has a lot to do with how you feel when you wear regalia, because I hear women tell me that they feel differently when they dance and they have a regalia.
They feel that they are Miíkmaq and they are not wearing something from WalMart but something thatís made by a Miíkmaw woman. It makes them feel good.
If a simple shawl can do that for a person when you are fighting addictions, can you imagine how good you would feel when you are dancing and you have your own regalia and you know who you are rather than having someone else tell you who you are.
TS: Did Miíkmaq traditionally use dance shawls like they do out west?
GD: Well, way back, even the men wore a blanket or something. I guess everybody wore something, either furs or some sort of skin.
So what they have out west and what we have here is all one, we are all one nation. We are not that different. Years ago everyone travelled anyway and what you had you shared including knowledge.
TS: So do you do other regalia as well?
GD: I do lots of ribbon shirts for male dancers. I was hoping to go into leather but I hear people telling me that it is too hot. So they prefer the WalMart fabric. I guess leather is OK for winter ceremonies and gatherings, but for summer they want something that is cool.
TS: Is there anything else you want to say anything else?
GD: I started this off as part of helping me and helping others, to pull the community together because there was so much alcohol and drugs on the reserve Ė not just reserves but all of the world.
I guess it helps to know where you came from, to know where you are going to go. I want to see my grandchildren going in that direction where they donít have to suffer needlessly. Iím telling them ďEverything is within you, bring it out.Ē
TS: Thanks Georgina.
* * *