Jingle Dance Detectives


During the exhibition planning process for One New Work: Tamara Lee-Anne Cardinal: Feet on the Ground, curator Nancy Tousley found a circa-1960s photograph online depicting four First Nations women performing a Jingle Dress Dance Wishing to include the photo to provide historical context to the items in the exhibition, Nancy asked us if we could secure permission to use it.

On the Internet, photographs can sometimes take on a life of their own. Images are so easily shared online that their origins can get lost in a long trail of copies and pastes. At first, we couldn’t find any identifying details about the photo – we didn’t know where or when it was taken. Then, a member of the Glenbow team found the picture on YouTube, where it was being used to accompany a soundtrack of a Jingle Dress Dance performance. Amazingly, someone had commented on the post and mentioned that the photo was from the Whitefish Bay (Naotkamegwanning) First Nation area in Ontario. The commenter even identified two of the dancers in the picture.

Next, the Naotkamegwanning First Nation Facebook page led us to the very helpful Kurtis Medecine in the community’s administration office. Kurtis, with the help of some Facebook users from the community, was able to confirm the names of the dancers in the photograph. He then acted as a liaison between Glenbow and the families of the dancers, who kindly provided permission to use the photograph in the One New Work exhibition.

Here’s what we found out about the picture:

  • The dancers’ names (from left): Caroline White, Elizabeth Joseph, Gail Skead, and Ida Skead
  • The person in the background is Maggie White, who is credited in the Naotkamegwanning community with playing a key role in Jingle Dress Dance culture in Ontario
  • The photograph was taken at the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School, in the Round Lake area of Kenora, ON

So, with a little luck, the magic of social media, and the help of a kind stranger, Glenbow was able to wrap up this detective mission. In thanks for their permission to use their likenesses in the show, we arranged to have four framed copies of the photo sent to the dancers’ families. As far as we know, none of the families had a personal copy of it. Though the image is a little grainy, we hope it will be a welcome addition to their homes and family history.

Clockwise from left: Ida Skead, Caroline White and Mary Ann Joseph (next-of-kin to Elizabeth Joesph)

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