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Chasing Down A Dream

Mervin Brass

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      POWWOW ISSUE 1999      v29 n02 p18  
REGINA - Helen Sunshine is living out a dream. She sits over her homemade beading loom, concentrating intently on her craft.

The member of the Gordon First Nation is making a belt, and says this type of beadwork is simple, and not complicated. Helen carefully threads the brightly-coloured beads on the loom, admitting the hardest part is figuring out the pattern. "But it all comes together. I do a lot of beadwork. I'm a selftaught beader," she says between stringing a row of beads. "My grandmother used to do it, but no one else in my family does it."

As a child, she would dream about being a powwow dancer, but her stepfather forbade Helen and her siblings from practicing their First Nation culture. Many years later, Helen took it upon herself to learn more about the culture, and the art of beading.

One day she went to the library, on a quest for knowledge about constructing a beading loom. "I thought, 'Oh my God,' why couldn't I have done this myself," she says, realizing how simple it is to build a loom. Once she built the loom, Helen began beading, and soon discovered a natural ability for the craft.

Helen says someday she hopes to pass the needle and thread to her powwow-dancing daughter, Lisa-Marie. "A lot of our young people are losing the culture," Helen says. "I think it's up to us to try and bring it back."

“A lot of our young people are losing the culture, I think it's up to us to try and bring it back.”

- Helen Sunshine

Photo of Helen Sunshine. Photo was supplied by Mervin Brass
Helen Sunshine

"My mom won't always be here," says the 21-year-old Lisa-Marie Sunshine, Helen's youngest child. "I want to learn. I think it's important that I do it." Part of bringing back some of the culture, is taking part in powwows, Helen says.

She says her daughter began dancing when she was eight years old, but lost interest during her high-school years. "I guess because of other things, I lost track of the Indian way," says Lisa-Marie. "I never had any native friends." But one night, Lisa-Marie also had a dream, Helen says. In that dream, Lisa was dancing powwow.

Lisa-Marie says in her vision, she wore a pink jingle dress. When she woke, Lisa-Marie told her mother about the dream. Both Sunshine women went to an elder for advice. "The elder advised me that (dancing) was my calling," says the younger Sunshine.

Once Lisa-Marie resumed her dancing, Helen tackled another artistic challenge. "I wanted a certain type of dress," Lisa-Marie says, telling the story about how her mother got into making dresses. "And my mom does all my beading too. She does everything."

"I make all of my daughter's jingledress dancing outfits," says Mom proudly. "It's fairly expensive to make one." But it's a small price to pay, considering that Lisa-Marie is much happier taking part in powwows.

"I like the feeling, the people watching, everything about it," says the young jingle dress dancer. "I get really pumped." "I go to powwows just to dance for myself," she says. "I'm not worried about competing."

So if you happen to be at a powwow this summer, Lisa-Marie will be the jingle-dress dancer, wearing one of two outfits, either a teal and white dress, with purple ribbon, or a burgundy and black dress, with white beaded moccasins.