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Moccasin-making school aims to teach cultural appreciation over appropriation

In the last few years, we’ve heard a lot about cultural appropriation. Music festivals have banned the wearing of native headdresses, SnapChat was forced to pull down a filter that promoted blackface and numerous celebrities have faced backlash for everything from wearing their hair in corn rows to sporting a bindi. But what if there was a way to enjoy a craft from another culture without being offensive?

That’s the drive behind the Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot School, a “non-profit, national indigenous artisan-run program that seeks to showcase and teach the art of mukluk-making to aboriginal youth and non-aboriginal visitors in the hopes of preserving this tradition for generations to come.”

Partnered with the TreadRight Foundation, which promotes the maintenance of heritage arts, the school recently opened up a new location in Toronto offering all Canadians an opportunity to learn about the ancient craft of mukluk-making.

“The goal of the school is to help an age old art be passed on to another generation,” says Waneek Horn Miller, the school’s director, and former Mohawk Olympian and assistant Chef de Mission at the Pan Am Games. 

“It’s important for indigenous youth to see the beauty and value in our crafts. Seeing things like beadwork, which would be common at a pow wow walking down the street of a city like Toronto – being cool, fashionable and mainstream – can make a big difference in a youth’s perception of their culture in general.”

Sessions are offered weekly and will teach how to properly measure a foot, sew together the boot and the art of beading. Classes are taught by two indigenous artisans whose skills have been learned from their ancestors. The hope is that the school will not only help sustain an indigenous craft and offer a cross–cultural exchange between indigenous and non-indigenous people, but it will also create real opportunities and life skills for aboriginal artisans to showcase their culture to a wide, global audience.

“The goal is to promote and celebrate the success of Canada’s aboriginal people.”

Click through the gallery above to see some of the storyboots that have come from the school and celebrities who are fans of the brand. Let us know what you think by tweeting to @YahooStyleCA.