Moccasin making offers the spirit of walking a path for the future

By Ken Luchterhand

Moccasins are soft leather slippers or shoes, without a separate heel, having the sole turned up on all sides and sewn to the upper in a simple gathered seam.
That’s the literal definition.
However, moccasins take on a much bigger role when they play a role in the gathering of people to heal and to forge the path ahead for a better tomorrow.
Leaders and clients from Vocational Rehabilitation for Native Americans (VRNA), Ho-Chunk Life Skills, The Ho-Chunk Family Court, and the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR), gathered on Tuesday, June 5, at the VRNA office in Black River Falls to make moccasins.
The moccasins were to keep for themselves or to offer as presents to others. They get a lot of the supplies from Crazy Crow Trading Post, including the leather and sinew.
Like other projects created in the VRNA office, the efforts are to provide skill training, plus a sense of unity to tackle the needs of becoming employed and independent.
Moccasins can be helpful to protect the feet when traveling down the path of life. However, the actual making of moccasins can help determine what path the wearer will take.
“These are skills that will last a lifetime,” said Ho-Chunk Nation Life Skills Coordinator Gayle Greendeer. “They can make them as gifts, or they can even go into business, making moccasins and selling them.”
Also helping direct the project was Life Skills Coordinator Macy Goodbear.
Goodbear has offered classes in Green Bay and Wittenberg. She’s looking at the possibility of holding classes in Nekoosa and Milwaukee as well.
They’re already being held in Black River Falls, Tomah, and Wisconsin Dells. Also, classes have been held in the youth centers for children in kindergarten through fourth grade.
Each Native American tribe makes their own moccasins different, Goodbear pointed out. She said that she had a woman who was part Oneida and part Ho-Chunk who knew how to make Oneida moccasins, but not in the Ho-Chunk style.
It was a joining of help, guidance, and direction.
“It’s a great project,” Greendeer said. “It’s traditional in Ho-Chunk culture.”