Great Lakes: Fully Beaded High Heeled Shoes
Collection of the Brooklyn Museum of Art
These stiletto “tennis” shoes are my illustration of the beauty of Native women living in 21st Century America.
The dance that the two female figures are doing is referred to among Native pow-wow circles as the Jingle Dress. This name comes from the type of dress the women wear. Made out of cloth and heavily embellished with cones made from the twisted metal lids of tobacco snuff cans, the dress itself is a testament to the absorption of the material world the dominant culture brought with them and the Native creativity with those new mediums. Though this dance is now done by women of many different tribes, it is my understanding that it began among the nations around the Great Lakes. These are the people whose ancestral homelands include what is now referred to Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. And these people still maintain communities in the city that has grown around them.
On the inside of the shoes, I chose to do my version of traditional Great Lakes floral designs. Being ever mindful of the appropriation of cultures and the ways in which it can dishonor the original meanings behind design aesthetic and the proper ways in which ideas and symbols are passed on, I never thought it was proper that me, a Kiowa, should bead Great Lakes florals though I found them so outrageously beautiful. As fate would have it, I married an Ottawa man from Michigan and now have two beautiful Ottawa/Kiowa sons. In some way, I feel I can bead my personal version of the flowers those Great Lakes ladies did so well.
These shoes are my tribute to the beauty and survival of the Anishnaabe Quaa, the Great Lakes Indian Women who have always known the shores of Lake Michigan as home.