Throughout the month of November, Western students will learn about and create mukluks, an important indigenous tradition.

Mukluks are traditional indigenous winter boots that are handcrafted and often decorated with custom bead designs. Each pair takes about 100 hours to make, from the skinning of the animal to being ready to wear.

On Oct. 24, the Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot Project opened its pop-up school at Western for members of the indigenous community and others interested in learning about mukluks and making their own pair.

Despite the amount of time and effort that goes into making them, they are often sold for around $200 a pair, which means the artist can't earn enough to support themselves. This under-appreciated and often forgotten art deserves more attention as it bears strong ties to indigenous tradition and community.

Director of the Manitoba Storyboot Project Waneek Horn Miller, a Mohawk and Six Nations member from Kahnawake, stresses the importance of mukluks.

“When couples are married they get matching mukluks, and even when people pass on to the next world, they are buried with new mukluks or moccasins because they need them on that journey,” explains Miller. “It's a connection to that. To make a pair of mukluks for someone, I personally find it very empowering.”

In addition to making sure artists are fairly compensated and appreciated, the Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot Project helps re-educate members of the indigenous community who have lost touch with this important tradition, so that they'll understand the high price tag.

Ashley Deacon, instructor for the London pop-up school and Western student, is a member of Opaskwayak Cree Nation in northern Manitoba. She says tradition is everything to her: “It's something that I live by."

Deacon grew up around family that has been making mukluks for generations and she herself has been making them for the past eight or so years.

As the instructor of the class, she stresses that your emotions go into and are passed on through the mukluks, so keeping a positive energy is critical while making them — an arduous task considering the 100 hours they take to produce.

This mukluk-crafting class is sure to be a very educational experience that will help locals connect or reconnect to the indigenous community and their important cultural traditions.

This class runs every Monday until Nov. 28 in UCC Room 269 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

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Ellis is a Culture Editor for Volume 110 of the Gazette. He is a fourth-year Sociology student intent on pursuing a career in journalism. If you wish to reach Ellis, email him at ellis@westerngazette.ca

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