On Thursday, March 11, staff and students at the Delta School District are holding “Roc Your Mocs,” an event to celebrate cultural diversity and identity through traditional footwear.
The original Rock Your Mocs event takes place annually in November. The campaign started in 2011 in the U.S. in support of National Native American Heritage Month and provides a positive opportunity for Indigenous people to unite and celebrate tribal individuality by wearing moccasins.
The Canadian adaptation, The Moccasin Identifier, was created by Carolyn King in partnership with the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nations and the Greenbelt Foundation to bring awareness to the culture, history and treaty relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.
“With our Delta adaptation — Roc Your Mocs — we are inviting students and staff to celebrate their cultural pride, diversity and identity,” said Nathan Wilson, Indigenous cultural enhancement facilitator with Indigenous education program.
“We will be using the event to teach about the diversity and identity of different cultures around the world, with a focus on Indigenous peoples/culture, through moccasin history, design and story, as well as learn from each other about the many rich cultural experiences we have here in Delta.”
Over the last few weeks, educators from around the district have participated in a series of workshops to learn the process of how to make a “pucker-toe” moccasin, explore Indigenous diversity and develop an awareness and appreciation for the skill and knowledge involved, which they will share with their students during Roc Your Mocs.
“Our hope is that Roc Your Mocs will unite staff and students from across the district in a fun event that also sparks important discussion and dialogue,” Wilson said.
“We are encouraging everyone in the district to design their own moccasin vamps (the part of the moccasin that covers the top of the foot and toes) to highlight their own identity or to share their own cultural footwear, special slippers or even fun socks.”
Students and staff will be encouraged to share photos of their footwear for a chance to win prizes.
|Saulteaux Cree – Saskatchewan hide and rabbit moccasins by Edith Cyr (1914-2000). (Shared with permission by Diane Jubinville)|
“Our Roc Your Mocs event will help to bring attention to the diversity, the identity and the value of Indigenous knowledge shared among all First Nations, Inuit and Métis within Canada and globally. We hope it will also encourage all students — of Indigenous and non-Indigenous ancestry — to take pride in their culture,” Wilson said.
“For our educators and other staff, this is an amazing opportunity to both learn from our students and to learn more about them as individuals.
“This is extremely important as building connections with our students is key to supporting and enhancing their learning.”
A part of the Indigenous lens for Roc Your Mocs is to understand that diversity is not just the physical aspect of a community — it is also about identity. The implementation of the Indian Act in 1867 sought to remove the Indigenous identity. Through acts such as the creation of reserves and residential schools, Indigenous identity became threatened. The long-term effects of these acts continue today.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommended 94 calls to action to help heal the effects of the Indian Act and begin to rebuild Indigenous identity among all First Nations, Inuit and Métis. Today, many Indigenous peoples live off reserve and away from their communities. They may not be connected to the language, knowledge and history of their nations.
Education is considered to be one of the greatest hopes for repairing cultural attitudes, redressing the legacy of residential schools and advancing the journey of reconciliation.
Recognizing diversity, cultural pride and identity can be shared in a number of ways. The Delta School District acknowledges there is a diversity of style and design among moccasins that is directly connected to the territory they come from.
The access to specific resources also dictates the material used, as well as the moccasin’s function. The design is specific to the skilled artist and/or the person wearing the moccasin. Seasons also dictate the function and form of the moccasin — for example, a boot cuff or fully lined versus a slipper style or dance wear.