Sky instructor makes traditional clothing part of class
centuries, the beauty of American Indian women was always complemented
by the style of clothing they wore, specifically designed to show
their great pride, dignity, and hope.
that in mind, Wakina Sky Learning Circle's Tammara Rosenleaf, who
is of Scottish and Swedish heritage, has found a deep connection
to the hearts and dreams of some of Helena's local Indian girls
and their traditional dresses.
degrees in fashion and teaching, Rosenleaf said, the biggest lesson
she's learned while working with Indian children is the way Indian
people do things as a process, rather than in a timeframe.
example, Rosenleaf last week completed a dress tailored to the individuality
of second-grader Jazmyne Lee Brave, a Chippewa Cree and Assiniboine
said it took more than 70 hours to complete.
she were ever to make a similar dress and sell it on the market,
it would bring hundreds of dollars.
it sold for $400, I'd only be making pennies," she said.
traditional Indian clothing can be priced as high as several thousand
dollars because of the amount of time and work that goes into each
clothing was always designed to mirror the greatest characteristics
of each woman, their creator, the world, their tribe and their people.
bead, shell, color and shape was detailed to represent some aspect
of their inner selves.
the tradition continues, more and more people, both Indian and non-Indian,
with genuine interest in Indian fashion and clothing design are
learning to examine and produce more authentic styles of Indian
over one year ago, Rosenleaf with her husband and two dogs, returned
to Montana from Washington state to begin working as an academic
support teacher for the Indian children at Wakina Sky.
Anaconda native, Rosenleaf said she grew up with a genuine interest
in Indian history.
the early 1900s, Chippewa Cree Indians from Rocky Boy were known
to spend the winter months by the hot springs near Anaconda. In
the local historical museum, photos of traditionally dressed Indian
men, women and children walking or riding their horses down the
bustling Anaconda streets are displayed as part of the town's history.
moving to Great Falls, Rosenleaf attended Longfellow Elementary
School where she said she befriended many of the local Indian children.
has always maintained a higher percentage of Indian children than
the rest of the elementary schools in Great Falls since a large
number of Indian families live in that area of town.
one of the oldest and nationally recognized Indian libraries in
the United States is located in the Longfellow school building.
when Rosenleaf started working at Wakina Sky, she said, she knew
nothing about Indian clothing.
can do what's told, but I had a lot of help from moms, Wakina Sky
and others," she said.
admits she doesn't know all the Indian traditions, but works with
the child's parents to learn what's right for the child and their
there are eight different tribes represented in the Wakina Sky program.
the help of local elders, Rosenleaf will help the children understand
how to wear their dresses, how to act while wearing them and how
to care for the clothing.
addition, Rosenleaf has helped put together and worked on other
types of Indian clothing, including men's traditional and pow wow
anyone wants to help with donations, the fabric and gift cards from
Jo-Ann Fabrics have been a real big help," said Rosenleaf.