Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Moc-Mocs

When Drew and I were in Fenelon a couple of weeks ago, one of the things we set out to do was visit the Curve Lake First Nation near Buckhorn to buy some moccasins.  Curve Lake is Ojibway First Nation territory, and they have a fabulous big store with clothing, jewelry, and lots of art.  The art is worth checking out just by itself.  All of the artists are First Nations, and the painting and sculpture are amazing.  There are a couple of pieces that I would love to purchase when I get money to buy original artworks.  There is one artist who was taken away by the government to a residential school when he was six and kept there until he was in his late teens.  He now paints the pain and anger from the abusive time in the school into bright and beautiful paintings.  Each painting has an explanation of its meaning written in a note on the back of it.

As much as I admire the art, the only thing Drew and I came away with on our last visit was a sweet pair of moccasins each, as planned.  They're made by Huron Indians of Quebec - which is funny, since we travelled to Ontario to get some - from deer hide, and they're so soft and comfy with a foot inside.  Drew's are dark brown leather and are classically cut, so that they look like a very nice pair of Sperry's, but are actually much awesomer because they're moccasins.  I am in love with mine.  They're butter-coloured with small coloured beads.  When I slip them on and start to walk it's like hundreds of tiny kittens are nuzzling my feet with their downy fur!  They look stylin' also.


I have a beautiful pair of moccasin winter boots as well - actually they were my Mum's.  She bought them at Curve Lake about 25 years ago, and they're still in excellent shape.  Mum gave them to me about three years ago, and they're the warmest pair of winter boots I've ever had on.

This is a stock photo of what my boots look like - mine are buried
in a box in the sub-let apartment somewhere!  The only difference
is that mine have a rubber sole, similar to the shoes above.

Moccasins have recently become main-stream popular again, for good reason since they really are so comfortable.  However, imitation moccasins made of leather or man-made materials assembled in China are now in every chain shoe and clothing store, and they sell for the same prices as the bona fide moccasin, deer-skin, hand-made by skilled people in Canada (or the USA, even) - depending on style, around $60.  I would bet good money that the imitations won't last more than one season.  And for reasons unknown to me, the high-quality moccasins made by First Nations people that are sold at Curve Lake and in other stores on First Nations territory don't get picked up and distributed by stores not on those territories - at least, not from what I've ever seen.  Maybe that's part of the deal, maybe the First Nations producers of moccasins only want to sell their amazing moc-mocs in stores in their territories.  Whatever the case may be, my advice to moc-lovers like myself:  if you're going to spend the same money, find a store that sells proper moccasins and go and get the real thing, or find a retailer of Native Canadian goods online.  It's well worth the effort.

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