The Delaware Tribe’s Traditional Clothing Sewing Circle
About three months ago, several members of the Delaware Tribe decided to begin meeting on a weekly basis to work on their own sewing and beading projects.
“With the pow wow coming, we thought it would be a good idea,” Delaware Councilwoman Janifer “Jan” Brown explained, referring to the Delaware Tribe’s upcoming 50th Annual Pow Wow, scheduled to take place May 23 – 25 at the Fred Fall-Leaf Memorial Campgrounds near Copan.
Chief Paula Pechonick said, “I needed time to get projects finished. Long ago my grandmother would get together with other Delaware women to sew.”
The traditional clothing sewing circle, which meets on Tuesdays 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. in the Delaware Community Center’s Forsythe Hall, is informal and social in nature.
“We wanted to have more of a sewing circle. We had projects to get done and we knew they’d be more likely to get done if we did that,” Delaware Councilwoman Jenifer Pechonick explained.
Other benefits of the gathering are encouragement and expertise offered by the more experienced participants to those just starting out.
Chief Pechonick explained the difference between appliqué and ribbon work: “[f]or ribbon work, you cut down through the layers, but appliqué you stack on top of one another.” She described a nine-layer skirt she had constructed using ribbon work to create a tulip design.
Brown pointed to Chief and said, “She’s our expert. I’ve been studying under her for 25 years.”
Anna Pechonick, age ten, said, “She made my clothes and my mom’s clothes.”
Jodi Anaya, who said she joined the class at the invitation of her Aunt Bess said: “I’m a beginner. I joined to learn more about my heritage.”
Brown said: “Your moccasin is so good. You’re gifted.”
Connie Collier agreed, admiring Jodi’s moccasin beadwork.
Collier, who also sews traditional clothing for others, was seated at the table with the others. Collier was busy making a shawl for Anna’s giveaway. Chief explained that Anna Pechonick is Head Girl Dancer at the upcoming pow wow and that it is customary for Head Girl Dancer to give gifts. The gifts will be given to the people on the pow wow committee, the staff and privately to others.
Another custom is for the Delaware to take gifts to the arena where the pow wow will take place and leave them at various spots. Sometimes, the announcer will specify that the gifts are for the elders or the women. Those within the stated category, who feel led, will go and get one of the gifts, Collier said.
“Candy will be handed out to the children also,” Collier explained.
Anaya’s Aunt, Bess Marler, said, “I’ve been doing beadwork since I was a little kid. My mom taught me when I was small. She went to Wyndotte Indian School. But I just started sewing traditional clothes three months ago. I made my moccasins and then the dress.”
Marler explained that previously she had made bracelets and necklaces by bead-weaving. Beading the moccasins she had made was similar to the bead work she had done previously. For this project the beadwork was placed on fabric and then sewn to the moccasin.
“My granddaughter Katie is usually here too. She is 16.”
Marler described the traditional clothing she had made for her: “Katie’s shawl has a hummingbird and trumpet flowers.” She explained the significance: “The trumpets are like my grandmother’s trumpet vines and Katie’s my little hummingbird.”
Regarding her attendance Anna Pechonick said, “I started this year, but I have watched my grandmother and my mom for years. My grandmother gave me a sewing machine when I was eight and I used swatches to see what kind of design I could make.”
This is not the only sewing group which meets at the Community Center, Another group, specifically for the Native American children, provides more formal instruction.
“On Thursday nights there’s a group that meets that beads and I’ve seen them make earrings. They teach them how to stomp dance too,” Anna Pechonick said.
More information about the Thursday night class, called “Lenapeowsi,” can be found on their Facebook page, Jenifer Pechonick said.
“We support the use of the Community Center,” Jenifer said. “This is a multi-generational facility with a child care center on one side and the elder nutrition program and offices on the other.”
For more information about the activities at the Delaware Community Center, visit the website at: www.delawaretribe.org or call 918-337-6590. For more about the upcoming pow wow call Lu Ann Hainline at 918-338-9907.