By NICOLE NEMETH
Moccasins were the traditional footwear of the First Nations and on March 14 students at Conestoga College were able to make their own pair.
Christine Lefebvre, also known as Karonhyakatste, her First Nations name, teaches moccasin workshops at multiple universities, high schools and elementary schools as well as courses in Native culture. She has done five workshops at Conestoga College to date, including the workshops she did on March 14 and March 21.
“I do moccasin-making workshops and in the high schools I teach experiential knowledge. I teach cultural things, steeped in the teachings, and usually I use human diagrams for them to understand the difference between nations. I teach them the differences between the different nations because they have this preconceived notion that we are all the same,” Lefebvre said.
Moccasins have been around for centuries. They’re made with soft leather that has been scraped and smoked to soften, colour and waterproof it. They are then sewn together by hand and decorated with fine beadwork.
But there were more to these moccasin workshops for the students who participated than just creating a pair of shoes for themselves; it’s also about creating community, remembering Native culture and sharing themselves.
“I think it’s imperative because moccasin making is a dying art, but a lot of people started making moccasins in the last decade. It was like an influx of people but for a long time nobody made moccasins or remembered how. Every opportunity I have to share about our culture or to pass that knowledge on, I do that so that it always stays alive,” Lefebvre said.
There were seven students who sat around a large table covered in pizza boxes, leather and beads. Traditional Native music played in the background, mixed with chatter and laughter. Not all of the students had a Native background but chose to participate for the experience.
“What we’re doing is building community here and it’s not about being First Nations, it’s about being a human being, learning from one another and sharing. And it teaches you about imperfection. What have we learned about imperfection?” Lefebvre asked her students.
“It can be corrected,” Britney Chordash, a second-year office administrative executive student, answered, laughing.
Lefebvre said, “We learn in making moccasins about patience, even when we think we don’t have any. These people have been sitting here for over four hours and have diligently been working away, have been laughing and sharing with one another … It’s great, so yeah, I love it.”
Aboriginal Services hosts a variety of workshops and events throughout the year including weekly workshops, elder visits, annual pow wows and monthly full moon ceremonies. For more information students can stop by the Aboriginal Services office located in Rm. 1A-103 or check out their page on the Conestoga College website.