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MADDEAUX: Cultural appropriation, interrupted

Sabrina Maddeaux says 24 Hours readers should check out Manitobah Mukluks -- and their workshops.

Sabrina Maddeaux says 24 Hours readers should check out Manitobah Mukluks -- and their workshops.


The problem, when it comes to instances of cultural appropriation, isn't in learning about or experimenting with other cultures, histories and fashions. It's about the way it's done. Cultural appropriation is offensive because of the way important cultural elements are adopted thoughtlessly, often in a colonial manner. This leads to perpetuating harmful stereotypes, trivializing sensitive historical moments or creating a caricature out of important religious and moral values.

There are ways to interact with, and enjoy, the beauty of other cultures in a non-offensive way. One prime example is popping up right here in Toronto by way of the Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot School at the Bata Shoe Museum. The workshops are a collaboration between Manitobah Mukluks (a brand that contracts actual indigenous artisans to craft their wares) and the Treadright Foundation (an international non-profit promoting sustainability in wildlife and heritage arts) that aims to teach the art of muklukmaking to aboriginal youth and non-aboriginal visitors in the hopes of preserving the time-honoured tradition for generations to come. Storyboots from across Canada will also be displayed at the museum alongside stories about their meaning and origin.

All instructors are indigenous artisans, so there's no controversial white-washing happening here. The same can't be said for those $20 moccasins on sale at your local fast fashion retailer. Sessions are held every Sunday at the museum until July 2017 at a cost of $125 per person. It's the perfect excuse to escape the winter cold and do something more hands-on and culturally valuable than watching another episode of The Crown on Netflix.

If DIY mocassin-making isn't your thing, you can also purchase Storyboots, with 100% of proceeds going to the indigenous artisan who made them, at

Want to read more from Sabrina? Follow her on Twitter @SabrinaMaddeaux