Office of Prosecution Photo by Christian Toews

April was Child Abuse Prevention Month. The Choctaw Nation's Office of Prosecution made ribbon skirts and shirts, wearing them throughout the month to promote the cause. Pictured front row: Deann Hawk, Kara Bacon, Randi Villars, Kelsey Long, Teola Maytubby, Gina South. Back Row: Mark Riffe, Spencer Harvey, Kari Hurst, Shana Doucet, Glenna Shepherd, Austin Browning, Jacob Keyes, Jonathan Hammond.

Office of Prosecution make ribbon skirts and shirts for Child Abuse Prevention Month

By Shelia Kirven
May 1, 2022

The Choctaw Nation’s Office of Prosecution recently undertook a group project to make blue ribbon skirts and ribbon shirts for their staff for Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Gina South, Juvenile Division Chief and Assistant Prosecuting Attorney for the Office of the Tribal Prosecutor, said, “We did want to do something special for Child Abuse Prevention Month, and we are always trying to incorporate Indigenous culture, specifically Choctaw, whenever we can.” One of the staff members had the idea and another suggested that the clothing be made from blue fabric, as that is the color associated with child abuse prevention.

The group watched a powerful YouTube video by Tala Tootoosis about ribbon skirts and their meaning.
Tootoosis’ video expresses that ribbon skirts are like battle gear for Indigenous women and that they share a message. In her video, she says of the ribbon skirt, “It’s about unity. It’s about education. It’s about empowerment.”

South said a second video is also available on how to make the skirts and on gifting to younger women, making sure that you always pass on gifts to others. She said the video speaks of it being a way to heal a community.

The eleven ladies of the department picked out their fabric and ribbons and they all worked on making their skirts. They also made a ribbon skirt for Judge Amy Pierce, wanting to be able to share a gift with her and ribbon shirts for the two gentlemen in the office.

“It was such a good bonding opportunity for our office,” South said. “We’ve had several different opportunities during the month where we have been able to wear them, and we are really excited about being able to do that. We feel it is such a good way to incorporate Native elements of healing, and talking about unity within a community, and be able to talk about prevention of child abuse all at the same time.”

South said that if you look back historically to the late 1800s, there are photos of Choctaw women wearing skirts with ribbons. However, it did not originate with the Choctaw tribe.

She also said that the Choctaw Nation Cultural Department previously did a beading project with the staff. “It was such a good way to bring together our prosecutors, our administrative support staff, our investigators, everyone was able to participate. It was something that brought together the entire office. It really built community in such a good way that was able to incorporate Native culture.”