Thousands of years before Nike released the NC7 shoe specifically designed for the Native American foot, our people had already designed the moccasin.
In his book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus author Charles C. Mann described the Indian Moccasin as ‘advanced technology’ that helped the undefeated Atlantic nations such as the Mohawk maintain their military superiority over the first colonies.
While the colonists trudged through the eastern swamplands in heavy European boots they made considerable noise like herds of stampeding elephants but the moccasin allowed the Indians to quietly advance in stealth.
Additionally, the mink oil soaked leather of the moccasin would wick moisture away and quickly dry after a day’s journey. Once they got waterlogged, the pilgrims heavy boots stayed wet and caused trench foot, blisters and other complications.
The high tech moccasin is one of the many reasons the colonists could not overpower the Atlantic nations and instead entered into treaties for a guest pass. There may never be a Hollywood movie called “How the East Wasn’t won”.
So today when an indigenous moccasin maker utilizes a certain style it comes from thousands of years of culture and engineering that has been preserved and passed down from generation to generation. The types of moccasins that can be made are diverse as the nations who made them.
This is why so many native people cry foul over misappropriation when big box outlets commandeer our designs for profit – or when non-native people wear our designs in fancy music videos. Cutting native people out of the picture and replicating an ancient design is recolonization. Removing the story removes the soul.
This is only one aspect of arts and culture for indigenous people. There is a wide array of interwoven stories about our past that are being retold in a new way. Thousands of important histories exist within each piece of artwork – meanings that were almost taken away from us and lost forever.
Whether it be fashion like the moccasin or sculpture, painting and poetry – indigenous artists have been communicating through media for thousands of years. It will take more than the speed bump of colonialism to extinguish that ancient flame.