Sask.-born designer behind ribbon skirt worn at historic swearing-in
Published Sunday, March 21, 2021 5:03PM CST Last Updated Sunday, March 21, 2021 6:35PM CST
REGINA -- At her swearing in Thursday, new United States Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland wore a traditional Indigenous ribbon skirt created by a Saskatchewan-born artist.
Haaland wore the ribbon skirt while she took an oath administered by Vice President Kamala Harris, bringing a symbol of First Nations culture to the official start of her term as secretary.
The ribbon skirt was designed by Agnes Woodward, who is originally from the Kawacatoose First Nation but now resides in North Dakota. She said she was incredibly excited to have been part of the ceremony in some way.
“I was really excited about it, I was kind of in disbelief and nervous,” Woodward said. “For such a historical moment, for such an amazing woman was so much pressure. So I felt so much excitement, I felt nervous. What if it doesn’t fit? What if she doesn’t like it? What if she doesn’t wear it? So many things.”
Woodward has been making ribbon skirts for more than a decade and the process typically takes days or weeks. She said making the dress for Haaland put her skills to the test thanks to a tight deadline.
“When I sat down with all the pieces to sew them together and to sew the applique down and put the skirt together, it was a total of six hours,” Woodward said. “I sat down and worked nonstop until it was done.”
Since the ceremony, Woodward’s name and work have appeared in publications like Vogue, bringing more demand for her work.
Despite the increased attention, Woodward said her work as a mother and victim’s advocate will continue to come first with ribbon skirts remaining her side project.
“To see my name, where I’m from and my art work on those kinds of platforms is such an unbelievable moment that I’m just so proud of and my family is so proud of,” Woodward said.
Woodward frequently posts her ribbon skirt work on her Instagram page, “Reecreeations”.
The U.S. Department of the Interior is responsible for conserving and managing the country’s natural resources and cultural heritage.
Haaland was picked for the job by U.S. President Joe Biden and is the first Indigenous person to oversee an American federal department.