Cultural Artist Joni Boyd Teaches Youth Traditional Ways in Summer Classes


By Toya Stewart Downey, July 2, 2015

As a little girl Joni Boyd spent summers with her grandparents learning “the old ways,” including how to carve, sew, do beadwork and more.

Fast forward to the summer of 2015 and Joni is teaching others some of the old ways, based on what she learned as a young girl and has practiced for her whole life.

In June, Joni began teaching a class of 18 students of different ages how to make regalia. The class, which runs through August, is held at Nay Ah Shing School and is open to all youth.

“I learned a lot of skills from my grandma, who lived east of White Earth on Oshkinowe Lake,” said Joni, who lives in District I with her husband, Clayton Boyd Sr. and the couple’s three children, Rissa, Nelly Lynne and TayoJo.

During the five-hour classes Joni is teaching the students how to make the old-style jingle dresses in red, green, blue and yellow. They are also making earrings. The boys are learning to make grass dance regalia. Some are making headbands and the pocket-toe moccasins.

Frankie Anderson is making grass dance regalia. Kierra Eagle is learning to string beads. She made a fancy shawl last year. Shayla Nayquonabe is making a green traditional jingle dress.

“I enjoy beading and sewing,” said Shayla. “I’m learning to keep it straight. Joni’s a good teacher.”

Destiny Mitchell made a fancy shawl last year and this year is making a traditional jingle dress. She said she enjoys learning how to sew.

“When I’m teaching the kids at school it is so great,” Joni said. “They are ambitious and they are working so hard.”

It takes Joni about four hours to make a traditional jingle dress. It takes the kids about two full days. Joni is certain that by the end of the summer the kids will become more skilled in their work.

One of the students, Keira Sarcia, grew up watching her grandma, Wanda Boyd, making moccasins and dresses. Keira said she has long desired to learn how to make those things herself.

“I like that I can finally bead,” said Keira. “My grandma kind of taught me when I was little, but the only time I can bead is when she’s around, and she’s far away.”

Joni’s daughter, Rissa, said her mom taught her how to bead, and another
teacher, Linda Stevens, showed her how to mix up the beads and combine the colors.

“Last year my mom helped me to make a dress that I still wear,” Rissa said. “I like to learn how to sew and bead so I can make my own stuff.”

Rissa is working on a traditional red jingle dress and said she has learned “that it takes a lot of patience to make your own regalia.”

Joni has taught classes previously at Nay Ah Shing and at the DI Community Center. She enjoys teaching others what she has learned. She wants to keep the culture alive and make sure her students and children learn how to practice the traditional ways.

“I love making jingle dresses for the dancers,” said Joni, who does a lot of different types of artwork including painting and carving. She also sells some of her work.

Joni and her family travel to powwows on weekends and she said the couple’s three children are all champion dancers. They have been princesses and a brave every year.

“It makes me proud to see them out there dancing,” she said. “It’s wonderful.”

It’s also wonderful that her children are practicing cultural ways including ricing, netting and gardening.

“I tell my children that when they grow up they will teach their children.”

Staff Writer Brett Larson contributed to this report.