Story skirt honours persevering women
- Andréa Ledding | August 22, 2020
Nancy Lafleur did not have much growing up. Living in poverty in a single income home, her grandmother worked as a janitor at the local school. Money was not always spent on food or clothes, so Lafleur learned to find other means to survive. Home was often where partiers hung out until alcohol ran out, and domestic violence would often be the end result. When Lafleur was 15, her grandmother quit drinking, and things changed in the home.
After high school, Lafleur attended both the Northern Teacher Education Program (NORTEP), and the Indigenous Teacher Education Program (ITEP) graduating with a Bachelor of Education Degree and a Bachelor of Arts and Science degree. Besides help from family, she drew on her own inner strength and perseverance to finish.
Now a story skirt designer, and author of two books, Lafleur wanted to honour other women whose educational and life paths were not easy ones. After conducting a storytelling workshop with a group of student teachers, she had the idea to design a skirt honouring a woman each year, portraying two women connected with a tree. In her interpretation of the skirt, the women symbolize strength and perseverance. The tree in the middle is everything that pulls to the side of resilience. Lafleur found her strength through her grandmother, and the teaching of other women in her community who led by good example. It is the strength she finds when she prays, and the strength she continues to find in family.
Each year the design will be replicated, and another woman will be honoured with the skirt and a small scholarship provided by Nancy and Glenn Lafleur.
This is the first year for the honouring, and it did not happen the way it was supposed to under these pandemic circumstances. Instead, Chantelle McLeod of Stanley Mission, the first recipient of the Strength and Perseverance Honouring skirt, received a surprise package in the mail on the day she was to graduate with her Bachelor of Education degree from Northlands College.
“I phoned her and I think I was more emotional than she was,” said Lafleur, who said McLeod was honoured to have the skirt, saying she would wear it with pride. “I’ve known Chantelle since she was a little girl.”
McLeod said the news surprised her. “When I wear the skirt I feel very empowered. It just feels like everything that I went through is worth it. Because I’ve been through some very dark times and I got knocked down more than once and I’ve always managed to pick myself back up.”
McLeod credits the many teachers in her life both in and out of school, especially her grandmother and her mother.
“They know the dark times that I went through but they don’t see me as that person, they see me as who I am today, someone that they told me would make a difference in this world and inspire other people who have been through things such as I have been through.”
McLeod has just finished her Bachelor of Education and is looking for jobs around Saskatchewan but hopes to stay close to home for a year or so to see where her journey takes her next.