A room full of participants are busy working on shell dresses at the first Shoshone and Bannock style shell dress class on February 27. Another session is set for March 18 at For Hall Housing Authority. (Lori Edmo-Suppah photo)
Popular regalia making classes promote traditions
By LORI EDMO-SUPPAH
FORT HALL — The Shoshone and Bannock style shell dress class and male regalia making was so popular February 27 a second session is scheduled Tuesday, March 18 at the Fort Hall Housing Authority conference room.
More than 40 women and youth turned out for the shell dress class while about six participants learned about making male regalia at the Early Childhood Center building. The room was too small so a larger venue is set for the second class.
Vivian Wahtomy, shell dress instructor, said she decided to have the class because she’s been getting orders to make them and thought, “Why not just do a shell dress class because our shell dresses are going out of style,” adding nowadays people are adding fringe and glitter but she’s staying with the traditional style of ribbon, cowry shells and beadwork.
She creates her dresses how her mother made them, “I wear my dress for special occasions – ceremonies like the Warm Dance – anything special that comes up.” However she has other dresses she’s created with fringe on them she uses at powwows.
“I want younger people to learn how to make these,” Wahtomy continued. She was pleased there were a lot of young people and older adults present at the class.
Vivian and her sister Charlene taught participants how to measure the material to their size then cut it and also make a yoke for the top half of the dress. Some were able to sew their dresses while others observed.
Marietta Cortez drew diagrams and took notes as she intended to work on her dress at home.
Catherine Amboh was present with her grandmother Virgene Hardy and they’re making a dress for Catherine. Virgene was busy cutting it out and said she’d have Catherine help with it at home.
Century High senior Akaila Martin was cutting out a small dress and said she was just trying it out, “It’s my first time (making a shell dress) – it’s fun.”
Laurie Kniffin and her mother Tina were present. “I’m making a dress for my mom,” Laurie said, “She wants to give it a go.” It was her first time making a shell dress but she has made jingle dresses. “I like it so far,” she said.
Tina Kniffin said the class is wonderful because everyone gets together. Laurie said she also wants to learn the male regalia making so her son can dance.
Luwana Skunkcap and her mother Marlene were busy making a little girl’s dress. Luwana said her daughter Stephanie saw the flyer in the Sho-Ban News and encouraged her to attend reminding her of her first grand baby’s birthday on Sunday.
Jamie Perkins said her friend Melita Fisher encouraged her to attend and both were making dresses for their daughter’s.
Elder Vivian Ballard was busy watching Leola Nagitsy put cowry shells on her dress. Leola was working on two dresses and said she used to be a teacher of dress making in Fort Washakie. Ballard said she learned a new stitch through observing Leola.
Much laughter and sharing was done throughout the evening with many wanting a second session.
Clyde Duke Dixey Sr. said he thought the male regalia making class was good, “If I can get two or three kids to dance our style, it’s worth it to me.” He said several brought their own stuff and he showed them how to do it. He instructed how to put the feathers together on a round bustle. One young boy brought his late grandfather’s bustle and it was done the old way with the tips of the feather’s cut. He had some long and short feathers so Duke instructed him to take it apart and he will help him put it back together. Another young man only had a roach but no outfit but wants to learn to dance. He told him to attend the next dance practice and listen to the drum. He also explained how he learned to put a roach placing it where the spot is in the middle of the head so the roach stands tall and not flat. He said growing one’s hair long, having a braid to thread through the top of the roach will keep it in place that way one doesn’t need straps to tie it on.
Dixey said when the next dance practice is scheduled it’s not to make fun – it’s to show how and do it right – it’s how the older folks taught him.
The next class for both activities is scheduled March 18 from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Fort Hall Housing conference room. Another session is tentatively scheduled March 25.
Wahtomy said attendees should bring a sewing machine, fabric, ribbons (four to five yards), beads, thread to match ribbons and fabric for the shell dress making. For information contact Vivian at 208-339-3969.
Clyde Duke Dixey Sr. shows a bustle to the group of participants.