June 21, 2023
June is Indigenous History Month in Ontario. It’s an opportunity for all Ontarians to learn about Indigenous Peoples, the foundations of Canada, and what it means to uphold our responsibilities as Treaty Partners.
So no matter where you may find yourself, along the path of your reconciliation journey, the Moccasin Identifier is a helpful resource to add to your knowledge bundle.
The idea for the initiative came to former Chief of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, Carolyn King C.M. in 2011, when archaeologists, clearing away the homestead of Nationally Significant Person Catherine Sutton for residential development, asked her, “Carolyn, how will we ever know that your people were here?” “You won’t. Carolyn replied, “It will be ploughed up and paved over.”
In that moment, the vision was sparked to find a marker that would represent Indigenous relationship to land, the importance of Treaties and upholding Aboriginal Rights, so that all Canadians would know whose land they were on. Carolyn started by asking: “What will identify us and connect us to the land? And on the third day I found it! Our footwear.”
Representing Indigenous diversity through moccasin design, the Moccasin Identifier aims to cover Canada in moccasins. As a reconciliation tool, it tackles the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) head on, by starting over with the children and bringing education and place-knowing to the forefront in both the classroom and public settings. As stated by former Senator and the Chair of the TRC, Murray Sinclair, “It’s education that got us into this mess and it’s education that will get us out if it.” The Moccasin Identifier’s goals over the next few years are to get a Moccasin Identifier education kit in every school in Ontario and to create a network of site installations across the Greenbelt Plan area and Ontario.
We’ve faced challenges along the way. From racism to tokenism, to securing sustainable funding, with all staff acting as full time volunteers at one stage. For this reason, we are particularly grateful to the Greenbelt Foundation, as none of this would have been possible without their support. As one of the initial major funders, the Greenbelt has demonstrated a deep commitment to reconciliation in Ontario by supporting the Moccasin Identifier to reach new heights.
From the development of a Communications Plan to support consistent messaging and a new brand design to be launched this summer, to a Story Map with interactive mapping to support with Moccasin Identifier installations, sustained staffing, as well as a forthcoming installation at the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, the Greenbelt Foundation has been a truly meaningful partner. As a result, many others are now coming forward and implementing the Moccasin Identifier in their community, school and place of work.
This summer please come and visit us at the Indigenous Arts Fest at Fort York in June, or for the Three Fires Annual Homecoming Pow Wow in August, or the Canadian National Exhibition from August to September, to connect directly with the team, and explore opportunities to work together!
Or stay tuned via our website www.moccasinidentifier.com for the launch of new tools and information in the coming months, including an AR app for you to virtually stencil a moccasin on your phone!
This Indigenous History Month, be inspired to walk alongside us and learn about Treaties for a better future together. The dream of reconciliation will take all of us and there is still much work to be done.
For more information, please contact [email protected]!
Susan is the Strategic Coordinator of the Moccasin Identifier and believes in environmental planning for conservation and reconciliation in Ontario's renown Greenbelt.
Image credit: Nadia Molinari