My dress was created for my coming of age ceremony. When I was 14 years old I was asked what I would like to do for that moment when I would become a young women. Being also from a Mexican heritage I was given the option of a Quinceañera or I could have a sweet 16. Not wanting any of these I asked my family what our tribe did for girls around that age. We turned to our tribe for help. Together we began to research and sought out help from many of the local tribes. Through this process we brought back our tribe’s flower dance. It had been around 100 years since a flower dance had been done in our tribe.
Once we figured everything out we began the process of creating my dress. We based my dress off of a very old one that had been stored in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. Creating my dress was a wonderful and amazing experience. Through the making of this dress we brought people together. Each part of the dress was created and made by people who cared and loved me very much. These people wanted to help bring me into womanhood and by helping making the dress they got to be a part of that. All the hard work that everyone and I put into the creation of the dress made me have a great appreciation and love for it.
This dress is an important part of my life and has shown me the strength that not only I have, but the strength of all Wiyot women. Since my coming of age I have worn my dress for many brush dances and for our tribe's first jump dances, which hadn’t taken place in over 150 years. I look forward to having other girls be able to wear the dress and appreciate the love that was put into it.
Michelle Hernandez is a member of the Wiyot Tribe. This fall she will begin attending American University working toward her MFA in Film and Electronic Media.
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