November 15th, 2019
To prepare for Roc Your Mocs Week, you must first have a pair of moccasins. A small group of students from across our district gathered together after school to learn how to make their own moccasins. Led by local Metis artist Kathryn Edgecombe, each participant received a kit with all the materials necessary to create their pair.
Edgecombe starting making moccasins years ago to give as gifts during the holiday season. The gifts were well received, with people telling her since she used to be a teacher, she should teach people how to make moccasins. “Now, I try very hard to make sure that everyone always leaves each session with a good pair of moccasins,” says Edgecombe. In all her years of teaching how to make moccasins, Edgecombe has received a lot of comments, but one stands out in her mind. A young woman bought a pair while at a music festival. “The next day, the girl returned and said to me that everyone in the world should have to wear moccasins because you can feel Mother Earth under your feet. And if you can feel her, you wouldn’t hurt her,” said Edgecombe.
Personal connections and the desire to learn more about Indigenous cultures brought people together at the workshop. Wenona, a student at Elgin Street PS asked a teacher to come to the workshop with her mom and sister. Marge Siertsema, a Grade 4 and 5 teacher at Elgin, taught Wenona the year before. As a class, they studied the Six Nations, learning about their religious teachings, food, clothing, and the roles of men, women and children. Through these lessons and throughout the year, Wenona and Ms. Siertsema shared a special connection, and Wenona shared her Ojibwe heritage. At the end of the year, Wenona gave Ms. Siertsema a special card made by an Indigenous artist that she bought at a Powwow. “She thanked me for taking the time to learn about Indigenous culture on my own time, and for sharing with her,” Ms. Siertsema said. “I have the card on a bulletin board in my classroom.” Wenona plans on wearing her new moccasins to the Powwow in Cape Croker this summer to perform the jingle dance. “I’ve always wanted a pair of moccasins,” said Wenona. “I thought it would be fun to make them myself.”
Secondary students Madison and Kiana, used the experience to make connections to their family. Madison wants to get to know more about the Indigenous side of her family. “For the past year, I have been trying to learn more in general about my family, and I thought this would be a good first step.” Kiana wanted to relearn the skill; it had been six years since she made her last pair. “I want to learn for myself, and I want to be able to make some for my daughter.”
True to her word, Edgecombe made sure everyone left the workshop with a great pair of moccasins and a personal connection to their Indigenous heritage.
Rock Your Mocs, founded in 2011 by Jessica Jaylyn Atsye, is about unifying Indigenous Peoples through social media, promoting cultural pride and highlighting the diversity of Nations. Follow along on social media using the hashtag #RockYourMocs