By: RJ Roggeveen, Program Assistant for the Indigenous Health in Medicine Program and Therapeutic Recreation student at Dalhousie
On December 5th, 2021 the Indigenous Health in Medicine (IHIM) Program hosted its first Indigenous Beading Workshop. This workshop was available to Indigenous students at Dalhousie and served as the cultural workshop for the Indigenous Health Mentorship students. As the IHIM program assistant and an Indigenous artist I, RJ Roggeveen, led the workshop with 12 students attending in-person and virtually. The students’ beadwork projects were amazing to see, many used the techniques being taught to create their own designs. It was inspiring to see the students get invested in their projects and engage in a traditional Indigenous art form. Several students expressed that they have wanted to learn how to do beadwork for a while but did not know where to start their learning process.
I was fortunate to learn how to bead while attending high school in BC where I grew up. I fell in love with the art form and found it was a great way to engage in my culture and meet others with the same interest. I have met many people over the years interested in learning how to bead and being able to teach them has taught me the value of passing on knowledge within our communities. I think it is also important to note that beadwork can be done in a variety of forms, the form I taught to the group was a traditional medallion type beading. I originally learned beading on a loom as it is easier to learn some general needle techniques and produce a final project often in less time. Learning loom beading is a great starting point for youth learning as it can help with developing techniques for threading a needle, picking up beads, and following a pattern. Once I got comfortable with loom beading, I wanted to make beadwork for my regalia, as I also used to be a fancy shawl powwow dancer. Many dance regalia’s have beadwork elements as a traditional style but also to further express themselves.
To make regalia beadwork which consists of earrings, medallions, moccasin covers, and leggings I needed to learn how to do a sewing style of beadwork which, for me, started with medallion type beading. This is the style I taught in the workshop, and its main components involve beading in a circle formation onto a piece of pellon (thick felt material). To keep the workshop covid friendly each participant got a bag of supplies that included some extras to be able to continue their work at home.
My favorite part of this workshop was seeing all the students take the techniques and make their designs their own. That is what this art form is intended to do, connect with your culture, and learn how to express yourself through it. I hope we get the opportunity to do this event again, in the future I would love to teach some other beading styles and if interested some advanced beadwork techniques. Going into the winter semester we are looking to hold another beading workshop virtually along with some other cultural workshops. If you are interested in learning how to do beadwork, our workshops, or want more information on Health programs at Dal as an Indigenous student, reach out to us at IHIM@dal.ca. Thank you to all the students who participated in the workshop, this was a great experience to lead.