Manitobah Mukluks: Preserving Métis Cultural Expression In Unique Footwear

Growing up in the cold Manitoba winter, Sean McCormick proudly wore his mukluks wherever he walked. A deep appreciation for his Métis culture led him to start designing his own mukluks using hand tanned leather, which he traded for handcrafted footwear from local producers and then sold to local souvenir shops. McCormick eventually started his own business, Manitobah Mukluks [], in 1997. Since then, the company has experienced phenomenal growth, and in 2014, Fortune Magazine designated the company as one of the fastest-growing Canadian Companies.

An array of mukluk creations—the final project for the 2015 graduating students. 

An array of mukluk creations—the final project for the 2015 graduating students.

To set his mukluks apart from others, McCormick hired generations of grandmothers, mothers, and daughters whose Métis traditions influence the unique product designs. In 2013, McCormick went a step further by creating the Storyboot School. Students learn about the Métis culture, establish relationships with elders and artisans, and practice the expression of traditional values. The school has grown and added to the curriculum with more sessions, training workshops, soapstone carving, dream-catcher classes, visual arts, and storytelling, as well as creating a growing digital archive of free instructional online videos and more. This venture will create new generations of mukluk designers and carry on traditions of McCormick’s past among First Nations youth, as well as people from other cultures.

The Storyboot School is a not-for-profit Indigenous arts-based training initiative that works with national and local partners to preserve the traditional art of making mukluks and moccasins. To ensure the Storyboot School has a national presence, eight training partners have come on board: McGill University, University of British Columbia, Carleton University, Bata Shoe Museum, Wabano Cultural Centre, Manitobah Mukluks Board Room, Wanipigow School, and the Community Holistic Circle Healing in Hollow Walter First Nation.

On December 1, 2015, the UBC First Nations House of Learning (in partnership with Manitobah Mukluks) hosted a graduation ceremony for the Manitobah Storyboot School. This year, fifteen graduates received their certificates, and approximately 240 students have completed the program so far.