Northern Feathers Program: Regalia-Making for Indigenous Women Who Use Drugs

In the spring of 2022, a group of staff led by SRCHC’s Indigenous Health Promoter, Les Harper, started a regalia-making program that was the first of its kind to bring together Indigenous women who use drugs to provide a space for their inclusion in cultural activities from a harm-reduction framework. Regalia is the traditional clothing and accessories worn by Indigenous people at dances and cultural events. Over an eight-week period in May and June, six participants worked with well-known regalia-maker and dancer Nichole Leveck and her daughter Nazarene Pope to envision and create their own regalia. The group culminated in a community Circle and coming-out dance that brought program participants together to showcase their regalia.

The regalia project’s activities were grounded in relationship-building and shared teachings. Elder Wanda Whitebird offered guidance to the program and gave the group its name: Northern Feathers Dance Troupe. This name reflects both what the dancers have in common and their unique contributions. Like feathers, they are each vitally important, and like birds, they are ready to fly. The Northern Feathers dancers have since participated in other community powwows and cultural events. SRCHC is grateful to have had the opportunity to support this space for community building and to be able to witness the joy and bravery of our community so beautifully expressed.

A documentary film titled Northern Feathers: Love, Culture, Harm Reduction was made about the regalia-making program and features Les Harper, Elder Wanda Whitebird, Nichole Leveck and the Northern Feathers Dance Troupe. The film was directed by Jason S. Cipparrone of Sheltered Perspective Films and executively produced by Les Harper. Watch the documentary trailer.

The program was also featured in a recent article published by The Hoser. Read the article here.