Cultural Spotlight: A dream come true

It was all a dream – literally. Rebecca Lyon was in the middle of pursuing her PhD in Indigenous studies when she had a dream about a jacket, unlike any she had ever worn.

“One of our teachings as Ojibwe people is to listen to our dreams, and the dream was me in a jacket,” she says.

Lyon is part Lebanese and part Ojibwe, although she has always admired regalia from her Ojibwe side, she’s always felt a little strange about wearing it.

So far, Rebecca Lyon has made around 100 jackets…and counting. | Photo courtesy of Rebecca Lyon

“In the dream, it was really about being able to go to a powwow and insert your identity in a way that’s not necessarily wearing regalia but something that is inherently Indigenous in a way,” she says.

Inspired by ribbon skirts, ribbon shirts and regalia, Lyon decided to make her dream a reality by creating powwow jackets as a way of connecting and celebrating her identity.

She is hosting a virtual workshop curated by the Museum of Vancouver to show others how they can make their own powwow jackets on Sept. 11.

The dream

“As a creative person, I’ve always wanted to make something instead of just doing written work all the time,” says Lyon.

In the Spring of 2020, she was busy pursuing her PhD, constantly in meetings and writing papers, when she had her dream.

“I was definitely looking for a way to express myself because I needed to be creative,” she says.

Lyon never thought her jacket would turn into a business, and she still doesn’t think of it as such.

“It was really just something personal for me to wear, and people just really started admiring it. It really helped me in my studies, and it gave me an outlet to put my creative juices in while I’m really deep into academic stuff,” she adds.

Embracing culture

Lyon is Ojibwe on her mom’s side and Lebanese on her dad’s side. Growing up, she knew very little about her mom’s side of the family. It wasn’t until she and her sister were young adults that they began asking their mom about her culture and family.

When Lyon went to Trent University to study Indigenous studies, she learned even more.

“I started learning the language at school and that really is what inspired me to embrace that part of my life, and it’s really brought my sister, my mom and I together,” she explains.

Lyon says her jackets are for everyone to wear, she wanted them to be customizable and rooted in identity, whatever that means for each individual person.

Lyon puts cedar – big in Lebanese culture – into her jackets to celebrate that part of her life as well.

Sustainability – an Indigenous teaching

“I think it’s really important that we have more and more people talking about what it means to be Indigenous, Indigenous culture and identity, so having that foot in the door gets the conversation started,” says Lyon.

Thrifting is a passion of her’s. She tries to thrift her jackets and use anything she already owns as much as she can to keep things sustainable.

“Sustainability is an important topic, especially as Indigenous people, those are our teachings – to only take as much as you need,” she says.

Lyon is inspired by Indigenous teachings, issues and topics, working that into her jackets.

“When we first heard about the Kamloops unmarked graves, I immediately knew I needed to make a jacket and auction it off to raise funds. I wanted it to make a statement,” says Lyon.

Having a voice, a face or place in the fashion world as an Indigenous person, a mixed person and a woman is really important, she says.

The workshop

“We’re going to talk about how powwow jackets came to be, what it means to create your own and put your own identity into it and why it’s important,” says Lyon, about her upcoming workshop.

Ribbons and fabric adhesive will be provided, however, participants will need to bring their own jacket or vest.

Lyon says these workshops give her a chance to tell others how she found this niche and how it’s possible for others to do the same thing and hopefully inspire people taino create and do sustainable things.

“That’s really what it is about for me. Workshops like this, where I get to meet other people from all over and see what they have to say, are so much fun and really a dream of mine,” she says.

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