The Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot School keeps moccasin making alive

Recently updated on August 1st, 2023 at 03:13 pm

This Canada Day, we’d like to look at how travel in Canada can make a positive difference to local communities. That being said, Trafalgar’s MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experiences are designed so that the way you travel, places you explore (and the way money is spent) benefits local cultures and communities as much as possible.

If you like the sound of these responsible travel experiences, keep reading.

On select tours of Canada, you can learn about Canada’s indigenous culture at the Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot School. This not-for-profit initiative teaches the traditional craft of mukluk and moccasin making, while at the same time preserves the art form for generations to come.

Read on to discover a cultural tradition that has helped make Canada what it is today.

Who are Manitobah Mukluks and what do they sell?

Manitobah Mukluks is an indigenous-owned company based in Canada. Their vision is to build a vibrant, global brand that makes a significant impact on Canada’s indigenous communities.

Manitobah Mukluks manufactures and sells traditionally-beaded leather and fur slippers, shoes and boots including mukluks and moccasins.

Not only that, the company has also launched a non-profit Storyboot Project. The project aims to revive the traditional arts by creating partnerships with elders and artisans who fashion mukluks and moccasins the traditional way.

Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot School Project
Photo credit: Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot School Project

Who started Manitobah Mukluks?

“This is a company that really is from the community” – Sean McCormick, Manitobah Mukluks founder

Manitobah Mukluks was founded in 1997 by Sean McCormick, who grew up wearing mukluks in his hometown of Winnipeg. Sean’s mother was indigenous and his parents felt it was important for him to know who he was and where he came from.

During high school, Sean sold leather and fur to indigenous artisans to help support their income. Little did he know however, that his company would one day become one of the fastest growing footwear brands in Canada – and a model of aboriginal business success.

The company’s moccasins and mukluks have been bought worldwide and seen on the feet of celebrities like Kate Moss, Jessica Biel and Cindy Crawford.

“The celebrity culture helps to drive the product awareness and that’s what I’m trying to do. I want more people to know about Manitobah and its products and that really helps.” – Sean McCormick, founder.

Ultimately, Sean wants the art of mukluk and moccasin making to be passed down to generations and for it to be an economically viable art form that help keeps the tradition alive.

Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot School Project
Photo credit: Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot School Project

What are moccasins?

A moccasin is a shoe, made of deerskin or other soft leather and the outer part is often decorated with embroidery or beading. Though sometimes worn inside, moccasin shoes are intended for outdoor use. The word moccasin comes from the Algonquian language Powhatan, and has since been generalised to mean any kind of Native American sewn footwear.

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What are mukluk boots?

Mukluks are a soft boot, traditionally made of reindeer (caribou) skin or sealskin, and worn by Arctic aboriginal people, including the Inuit, Iñupiat, and Yupik.

What is the Storyboot School Project?

Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot School gives young people the opportunity to learn how to make mukluks from aboriginal artisans.

“We’re a private business but we’re almost a social enterprise. We’re giving kids and aboriginal kids, would-be entrepreneurs, an example of what’s possible.” – Sean McCormick, founder.

The Storyboot Project aims to revive the traditional arts by creating partnerships with elders and artisans who fashion mukluks and moccasins the traditional way. These artisans teach the tradition of mukluk-making to young indigenous students who will then carry on and safeguard the tradition, contributing to the protection of the Métis cultural heritage.

It also provides economic opportunities to artists who otherwise would not have a platform to reach international markets. For every Storyboot sold, the artist receives 100% of the profits.

Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot School Project
Photo credit: Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot School Project

Who are the artisans?

The school uses expert Indigenous artisans from across Canada and other parts of North America to showcase a unique and culturally diverse collection of Storyboots. Artists include: Rosa Scribe from Cree, Norway House Manitoba, Greg “Biskakone” Johnson from Lynx Clan, Lac du Flambeau Reservation, Wisconsin and Rosary Spence from Cree, Toronto Ontario.

How you can support Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot School

Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot School is supported by the TreadRight Foundation. Together, they have established an educational space at the Canadian Museum of History, at which an indigenous artisan delivers weekly Storyboot School sessions that serve to teach the heritage art of mukluk-making to local indigenous students and visitors. The project also displays and sells the work of existing Storyboot artists from Canada in the museum’s gift shop.

You have the opportunity to support the Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot School on our Eastern Canada tour, There, your Indigenous Cultural Ambassador will take you on a guided tour including an interactive beading workshop.

You can also learn more about the Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot School by watching the video below, hosted by the TreadRight Foundation‘s ‘people’ ambassador, Sarain Fox:

For more information on our new and exclusive Canadian domestic trips, take a look at our Near Not Far Limited Series. For those of you not from Canada, you can also experience Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot School on our East Coast USA and Canada trip.

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