Tahlequah Daily Press

November 18, 2013

Rocking their mocs

A local artisan taught class members how to make traditional footwear

By RENEE FITE
Special Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Traditional moccasin-maker Mary Horsechief-Henderson had a rare opportunity Friday.

It was her first time teaching four generations of one family at the same time, and she was thoroughly pleased.

“This is exactly why I teach, and what today is about,” Horsechief-Henderson said.

For Tiffany Simpson, of Peggs, the “Rock Your Mocs Day” class, offered by the Cherokee Nation, was a time to celebrate family and her mother’s birthday. Along with mom Kathy Simpson, she brought daughter Sydney Johnson, a freshman at Chouteau High School, and her grandmother, Ilene Davis.

“Rock Your Mocs Day” is part of Native American Heritage Month. The class, held at the John Ross Museum, was free, and allowed the first 25 participants to create their own traditional moccasins. All materials were provided to make traditional pucker-toe moccasins.

When Tiffany Simpson saw the class advertised on Facebook, she thought it was the perfect way to start her mother’s birthday.

“We’re all here together,” Simpson said. “We are enjoying this class and this experience. It’s a slow process, but I’ll wear my moccasins around the house.”

Ilene Davis said she loves moccasins and being with her family.

“This deer skin is so soft, and it will be easy to walk in,” Davis said. “And I like working here with my family, especially my great-granddaughter.”

Sydney Johnson found the task a little challenging.

“I’m learning making moccasins is not very easy,” Johnson said of her handiwork.

“I like hanging out with my family.”

Kathy Simpson was pleased her daughter found such an interesting way to begin her birthday celebration. It’s something she’s always wanted to do, but never had the opportunity.

“My daughter wanted to do something special for me today, so she brought us here to make moccasins,” Simpson said. “We’re having a great time. I’m thoroughly enjoying myself. I’ll probably wear these forever.”

Matthew Pallie has made moccasins before and he enjoys art.

“I like using my time to make something, instead of playing video games all the time,” Pallie said.

Horsechief-Henderson moved from person to person, checking to see if they needed assistance, or answering questions by patiently demonstrating whatever was needed. An artist and former regional prevention director of Cherokee Nation Behavorial Health, she was focused on each person she helped.

“I like helping people learn new things; I like to learn new things, especially hands-on,” Horsechief-Henderson said. “To me, it’s the easiest way to learn.”

After talking to some co-workers, she determined some of the traditional arts were being lost.

“My younger co-workers don’t know how to sew or cook, this generation is missing out on learning a lot of skills,” Horsechief-Henderson said.

“Teaching younger generations and helping families do things together is one of the best protective factors we have, and it’s helping them make memories.”

LEARN MORE

“Rock Your Mocs Day” was founded in 2011 by Laguna Pueblo member Jessica Atsye, to unite all tribes by wearing moccasins on Nov. 15, and then sharing a photo on social media. The preferred hashtag for this year is #RYM2013.