The following article was submitted to LCO News as she is giving away three jingle dresses on her social media accounts, which, as she explains, is a sharing a sort of nomination process - it will give people a chance to share something positive about another person.
Check out her Facebook page at facebook.com/aeriusbenton
Aerius Benton-Banai (Jingogiizhigookwe)
Today, I am honored to share with you the profound significance of my Jingle Dress Project, a venture that goes beyond the creation of wearable art.” This endeavor is born out of my deep appreciation for my identity, my community, and our rich history. Through this project, I aim to express who I am, share my unique perspectives, and promote healing among the Ojibwe people and I want to say a huge miigwech to the Ontario Arts Council for supporting this endeavor. I hope to contribute jingle dresses to both communities that I am from, Oneida Nation of the Thames and Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe.
For the past thirteen years, I have been commissioning traditional art, which has become an integral part of my life. This experience has been transformative, leading me through a journey of growth and professionalism. Today, I take immense pride in the work I create and the positive impact it has in many native communities.
The jingle dress holds great significance within our Ojibwe community. It symbolizes healing, resilience, and strength. Each dress is meticulously crafted, adorned with metal cones that create a beautiful sound, evoking a sense of unity and harmony. As these dresses are worn with pride, they not only honor our past but also inspire hope for the future.
This project aims to support young women, girls, and two-spirit people in revitalizing their Ojibwe identity and culture through the beautiful act of gift giving, a practice deeply rooted in many Indigenous communities.
Throughout my artistic journey, I have had the privilege of creating moccasins, beadwork, and jingle dresses for many. These experiences have been pivotal in my self-discovery, guiding me to understanding how I can contribute to my communities' efforts of reclaiming their languages, values, and practices.
It is important to acknowledge the influence of my great grandmother Shirley, a survivor of residential school near St. Elgin, my grandmother Sharon, and my grandfather badwewidun who all have continuously motivated and encouraged me in my life. Their resilience and determination have instilled in me a deep sense of responsibility to use my talents to connect people to their own communities.
Creating and gift giving holds a profound cultural significance in my community and was inspired by big drum ceremonies. The practice of taking care of one another, of supporting and uplifting each other, has been the bedrock of our Indigenous people throughout history and remains integral in the present. With this in mind, I have committed to creating 7 exquisite jingle dresses, personally crafted by my hands, to be gifted to young women and two-spirit people who may not have the means or connections to commission such pieces. By continuing this time-honored tradition through this project, I hope to contribute to the preservation and revitalization of our cultural practices within our community. I want to embrace the spirit of community care and support that has sustained our Indigenous people for generations through genocide and trauma.
Thank you for your attention, and may the spirits guide us on this remarkable journey of cultural preservation and healing.