MCCSC adult ed grad designs skirt worn by Deb Haaland in ceremony
Deb Haaland became the 54th Secretary of the United States Department of the Interior on March 18 and wore a ribbon skirt made by Agnes Woodward during her swearing-in.
Woodward, a Plains Cree tribal member and former Indiana resident, is a graduate of the adult education program at Monroe County Community School Corp. at the Broadview Learning Center.
Haaland is a citizen of the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico. She is the first Native American to hold the post of cabinet secretary. Vice President Kamala Harris officiated at the ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC
As Haaland was sworn in, she wore Woodward’s ribbon skirt, full of horizontal rainbow colors, a butterfly and corn cobs hanging from their stems. A ribbon skirt uses an A-line design and is layered with (usually) satin ribbons.
Woodward, a self-taught seamstress from the Kawacatoose First Nation (Saskatchewan, Canada), made the garment, one of many she created as a full-time advocate for the Victim Services Center for the Three Affiliate Tribes.
Woodward’s aunt – Eleanor Ewenin – was murdered in 1982. In Ewenin’s memory, Woodward began making skirts to represent missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, making a similar skirt for Woodward’s mother. .
While representing a New Mexico district in the United States House of Representatives, Haaland introduced a bill in 2019 that focused on missing and murdered Indigenous women. According to the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women, the US Department of Justice has said murder rates of Native American women are more than 10 times the national average. First Nations and Native American girls, women, and transgender people experience violence more often than most other groups in the United States and Canada.
The Cree Indians are a large tribe of Native Americans living in parts of North America, including the Rockies and areas along the Atlantic coast. As with other Native tribes, the Cree Indians have several bands, and between Canada and the United States there are approximately 200,000 Cree Indians.
Saskatchewan, where Woodward is from, is the only province in Canada without a natural border. Its rivers, reservoirs and 100,000 lakes mean that nearly a tenth of the province is made up of water. Chief Kawacatoose signed a treaty in 1874 and in 1876 received a reserve in the Big Touchwood Hills. His son Tawequasequape later became chief, and members began farming with supplies obtained through the treaty.
Woodward’s design for the Haaland skirt represents the Haaland pueblo. Haaland selected two butterflies from Woodward’s previous work. The stars, with dots, serve as Woodward’s signature.
Former Woodward professor at the Broadview Learning Center, Chris Harmon, said he found Woodward smart and diligent.
“Agnes arrived very hardworking, but nervous. She is very intelligent and was able to learn the subject quickly, but she had a lot of gaps in her knowledge,” he said.
Woodward spent approximately four months in the MCCSC program in 2017 and accumulated approximately 125 hours of instruction before passing his test. She and her family now live in South Dakota.
âWe help our students get their high school equivalency diplomaâ¦ and prepare for college entrance exams,â Harmon said.
Watch the ceremony
Secretary Haaland’s swearing-in, as she wears Woodward art, can be seen on Youtube at https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=oRNo6o2gQ14 and was streamed live on the account SomÃ¡h Haaland’s Instagram.