RRC grad expands Indigenous wares program to Toronto
Shondell Babb, CONTRIBUTOR
Sarah Brazauskas, a Red River College graduate, is making strides as the project co-ordinator of the new Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot School in Toronto.
Elders and artists will instruct beginners in making mukluks, moccasins and other Indigenous wares at the school.
“We’re aiming to revive traditional arts,” graphic design grad Brazauskas, 28, said. “This is a path to reconciliation as well, because when we’re sharing our culture and history and sitting together working on the moccasins and mukluks is when conversation naturally happens, and you get an opportunity to know where each other are coming from.”
The school launched at Toronto’s Bata Shoe Museum on Sept. 11.
“The Toronto location is the most accessible and there’s a cross cultural component for travelers visiting the museum, as they can see what students are doing,” said Tara Barnes, Manitobah Mukluks’ director of brand development and public relations.
Manitobah Mukluks received the first TreadRight Heritage Initiative grant in North America. The US $20,000 grant will support four six-week sessions for 60 Indigenous youth. The TreadRight Heritage Initiative promotes handmade and culturally significant products while also backing organizations that support local artists.
Sandra Mannila, 26, is enrolled in the Storyboot School and has Ojibwa roots. Mannila said she joined the pro- gram to learn more about her heritage and to support Indigenous business.
“I feel very happy and lucky to be part of the program,” Mannila said. “I’m lucky to be able to learn what I was never taught, and I’m accepted into the Indigenous community here.”
Former student Teekca Spence was 19 years old when she attended the first Storyboot School in Winnipeg in 2013. She is currently stitching together her small business career by making and selling moccasins, jewelry, mitts and dreamcatchers. Spence is also set to teach a course at the Storyboot School this winter.
Barnes said the dream of Manitobah Mukluks “would be to eventually have moccasin making included in the high school curriculum.”
The not-for-profit Storyboot School is different from the Storyboot Project, which has a limited selection of traditional shoes that expert artists create. Storyboot Project artists receive 100 per cent of the profit.