I made my buckskin dress. This represents a lot of hard work for me. A lot of people came together to make this dress and it was a huge accomplishment because we made this dress on a very short timeline. I wore this dress at the end of my Flower Dance ceremony. It was the last day of the dance and I was being presented as a woman, so in a way it represents my womanhood. I can’t really fit it that well anymore because I was very young at the time but the dress was a part of that turning point in my life.
I also wore this dress in Washington DC for the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). I wore it again in DC when I won an essay contest and at the awards presentation. My dress has been there for me during these sorts of moments and accomplishments.
My dress allows me to present my culture to other people. I wouldn’t say that it is the only piece of culture that I have because I am a very cultural person and I bring my culture with me wherever I am, in my mind and my heart. The dress allows me to communicate my culture in an easy way. When I put on the dress - it’s time to dance, it’s time to sing. The dress has a spirit and life and it aids me in doing these things. At the same time, it’s not the only way to be Native. It helps me; it’s a good part of me but I am this strong, Native woman when I’m wearing it and when I’m wearing work clothes.
Natalie Carpenter (Hupa, Yurok, Karuk) teaches Life Science in San Jose, CA. She is a graduate of Stanford University.
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