When I started my work in First Nations communities back in 2014, there was a theme that I quickly became aware of – the constant presence of vast collections of earrings worn by community members. It wasn’t long before I was gifted my first pair of earrings: beautiful dark purple, black, and gold beaded fringe earrings that quickly fell into heavy rotation in my wardrobe. Quickly a second pair followed, these a white fringe, with gold and green accents. Now I had seasonal pairs! I wear my beaded earrings almost every day, and not just because I love them (I do!), but also because I’ve noticed the response given to them by the communities I visit. They are a constant source of conversation, and seem to provide a symbol of shared connection.
Last year while I was working in a northern community, I had a small child leaning back in my dental chair. As I was doing my work, the child slowly reached her small hand up, and carefully grasped the fringe of my right earring between her thumb and forefinger. I could feel her start to gently roll the beads back and forth between her fingers. I asked her, “do you like my earrings?”, and she nodded while she continued rolling them. This moment of connection touched me deeply. What was even more surprising was that this action was repeated by my next small patient, who continued to touch my earrings throughout this appointment. When I returned to my hotel room that evening, I was excited to reach out to my friend and beader, Emily White of Tla’amin and Klahoose First Nations, to share the experience with her. Emily was delighted to hear the response my patients were having to her earrings. She shares:
“There are many sacred teachings to follow when doing beadwork. One of the most important ones to me is that this work can only be done in a good way. You cannot do beadwork when you are feeling any negative energy because if we do, we bead this negative energy into the beadwork. When beading in a good way, we bead positive energy and love into the work; this is medicine. The beadwork will hold this medicine and be with the person who wears it.”
As Emily shared this teaching, I came to understand that these earrings held more medicine than I had ever realized. I had an idea, and shared it with Emily to hear her thoughts. What if we could design a fringe earring that was not only beautiful, but could also be used as a point of focus for individuals laying back in the dental chair? Something that might shift the person’s attention from their treatment to something positive?
Last week I was surprised to receive a special parcel delivered to my door, and inside was a box that has become familiar to me. As I peered in the box, I was touched to see that my idea had been strung into reality. This pair features an opal coloured fringe, threaded through with different coloured flowers. When I wore them for the first time last Wednesday, I was supporting a child through a particularly difficult appointment, and decided to try to use the earrings to shift their focus. I asked them, “how many yellow flowers do you see on my earrings?” The child blinked up at me, surprised by my question, then softly replied, “one…two…can you please turn your head a bit so I can see the other side? Three…four. There are four!” This moment marked a complete reset for this child, and he instantly became grounded and calm.
I have learned that Emily’s earrings provide not only good medicine for me, but can flow to others around me - including those I provide my care to. When I wear my earrings, I carry the power of that good medicine with me. It warms my heart to know that I can share these good feelings with others, and am truly grateful for the beautiful gifts that I have the opportunity to wear, that are so filled with love and positivity, every single day.