Rebekah Jarvey gazes out her living room window near the Rocky Boy Indian Reservation as she begins to tell her story.
She is Chippewa Cree and her well-kept home sits along the reservation border in northern Montana. When she was a little girl her job was threading needles. She was doing beadwork at age five and at age eleven her mother taught her to sew. That struck chord with me because I started sewing at that same age. The difference between us is that she is now sewing beautiful garments and I struggle to keep the mending pile from toppling over!
Rebekah greets me wearing handmade moccasins, a black tee shirt with her custom logo and one of her beautiful ribbon skirts that she designs and sews. The colors are glimmering and bold and there is deep significance in them. Yellow, orange and red are prominent and she referred to them as fire colors or sunburst colors. Those colors, plus turquoise and white, are her family colors. She loves pink and has taken liberty in working that color in to many of her designs.
A self-proclaimed indigenous fashionista, Rebekah lives up to the name! Outfits (and lipstick) are coordinated, designed with care and have a unique flair. She calls the style of her ribbon skirts RibbonDrip. The colorful ribbons cascade alongside the skirt and give it a contemporary look, but they still honor tradition.
With the recent COVID-19 pandemic Rebekah began designing and sewing masks.
Her native culture is evident in the turtle mask. The fabric looks like beaded turtles and she told me that turtles are a sign of strength in her culture. The turtle mask has been the best seller on her website. She has a variety of designs available, some very ornate with beadwork, and some with designs to appeal to younger folks. She has an active presence on Instagram @RebekahJarvey and she posts many photos so you can see her designs, both masks and ribbon skirts.
Rebekah is carrying on tradition and has taught her fifteen year old son Royce how to bead. He is now a
fifth generation family bead artist. Royce has helped add flair to her custom masks with his bead work and he also does a variety of beaded jewelry.
I planned to visit with Rebekah about an hour, but after two and a half hours I realized we were still chatting. I was learning, she was eager to share her family stories and she demonstrated her work while we talked. At times I was mesmerized, other times I made notes so I wouldn’t forget what she was teaching me.
I was inspired by her effort to carry on traditions and to teach native culture. At the same time I could see that she is embracing technology for her marketing and product awareness. Quite a combination.
I’m grateful to have learned a bit of her story.