Josie Saddleback, Jingle Dancer and Jewelry Artist

Local Stories

Josie Saddleback has been a prominent member in the community, attending markets and dancing in her Jingle Dress.

Josie Saddleback was a vendor at an Indigenous market in summer 2021, where she was drawn to a beautiful Jingle Dress full of reds, turquoises, oranges, and yellows, with pockets that could hold her medicine and crystals.

She was always interested in learning how to dance but knew the powwow life comes to you when you're ready. She tried on the Jingle Dress, and it fit like a glove. At that moment, jingle dancing found her.

“I started to practice and, sure enough, I bought my second dress the following December,” she says. “When I dance, I feel very grounded and proud of who I am. It doesn’t matter if one or 100 people are watching me; it’s the same feeling every time.”

Saddleback, Cree name "White Bear Woman," has jingle danced throughout Medicine Hat for over a year. The Jingle Dress is also known as Prayer Dress and was dreamt by an Ojibwe Medicine Man when his granddaughter fell sick over a century ago. Spirit-Guide Women showed him how to make the Jingle Dress and taught him to dance in a dream. They said it would heal his granddaughter.

“It did,” says Saddleback. "The jingle dress is a prayer of medicine dance to help afflicted people. When I’m finished dancing in mine, I feel I’ve completed my purpose as a Nehiyah Cree woman. A part of me is healed, and I've passed on healing energy onto those watching me, through the grounds I've danced on."

“I feel very grounded and proud of who I am when I dance. It doesn’t matter if one or 100 people are watching me, it’s the same feeling every time.”

Saddleback has danced in front of the 215-foot-tall Saamis Tepee, inside Moose and Squirrel Bistro, underneath the sunshine in Kin Coulee Park, and in front of students at local schools following her presentations.

“Once I hear the downbeat of the drum, the song takes over me. I feel close to my ancestors, like my spirit is floating. I’m carrying their spirits with me, their presence, and I’m keeping their memories and cultural teachings alive, making them proud.”

The artist also owns Saddleback Stones. She drives the prairie roads in the summer and stays in the city to attend markets and sell her handmade rings, earrings, necklaces, and keychains.

“The markets are so welcoming. I feel at home, doing what I love — creating art and selling it, while making friends at the same time.”

When she was younger, Saddleback and her family would attend ceremonies, feasts, round dances, tea dances, sun dances and powwows, and she spoke fluently in Cree language to the friends and families she was surrounded by growing up.  

In her teenage years, she and her family took part and danced for History in the Hills in Elkwater, where tipi’s are set up with cultural teachings for those who want to learn more about Indigenous culture.

“At the end of the day, my siblings and I would dance powwow for the students and teachers. Afterwards we had a huge round dance in this beautiful open land. It was amazing seeing everyone come together like that.”

These last few years have brought life-long friendships for Saddleback as she Jingle Dances and owns her business. She and the owner of The Copper Leaf Cafe have become close friends since finding each other's businesses through the Shop YXH Spring Campaign photoshoot in 2021. Saddleback currently sells her jewelry in the coffee shop.

The artist was featured for the Medicine Hat News’ Miywasin Moment for making orange ribbons for Every Child Matters and became connected to the Miywasin Friendship Centre. Through her dances and presentations at local schools, she's made special connections and listened to students' stories.

“This has become my home over the last 16 years, and I love the friends and family I’ve made along the way,” says Saddleback.

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