Canada to celebrate first National Ribbon Skirt Day in January

The first National Ribbon Skirt Day will become a reality one year after Isabella Kulak was shamed for wearing her ribbon skirt to her Saskatchewan school.

Bill S-219, An Act Respecting a National Ribbon Skirt Day, received royal assent last week and is now enshrined in law, according to a press release from Crown-Indigenous Relations.

The bill was written in honour of Kulak, an Ojibway (Saulteaux) girl from Cote First Nation in Treaty 4 territory. Kulak was shamed for wearing her ribbon skirt by an educational assistant. Ribbon skirts are an expression of Indigeneity marked by arrays of designs, colours and patterns. They are often worn at ceremonies or special events by women or gender-diverse people.

The country’s first National Ribbon Skirt Day will take place on Jan. 4, 2023. It will provide an opportunity for Canadians to educate themselves and recognize the importance of Indigenous traditions and cultures, the press release reads.

The holiday is a way the country can combat racism and discrimination against Indigenous Peoples by raising awareness and celebrating Indigeneity, it adds.

In the press release, the chief of Cote First Nation called it a “historic day” for the nation and applauded the young Kulak for showing great courage and giving hope to the “future of our People.”

Jenica Atwin, the MP who sponsored the bill, told Canada’s National Observer in an earlier interview that she hopes the spirit of the bill will be celebrated daily.

Atwin dreams of a time when all Indigenous Peoples can show who they are and feel comfortable rocking their regalia, moccasins and beaded medallions.

“It wasn’t that long ago that these things were outlawed, that you couldn’t express yourselves,” Atwin said.

“For me, it’s a signal that this reconciliation process is ongoing.”

Matteo Cimellaro / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer

Matteo Cimellaro, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Canada’s National Observer