By Krystan Moser
November is here, along with cooler weather, shorter days and Native American Heritage Month. Every November brings with it a time to celebrate the rich and diverse cultures, traditions and histories of Native American peoples. Presidents have issued proclamations declaring November “Native American Heritage Month” since the 1990s. President Barack Obama issued the most recent proclamation on Oct. 31, 2016, which you can read here. For the last six years, November has also played host to a national social media campaign known as “Rock Your Mocs.”
Founded by Jessica Atsye of Laguna Pueblo, New Mexico, the campaign promotes the unification of Native American, aboriginal, First Nations, Alaskan Native, and other indigenous peoples around the world through social media. Since its inception, the event has expanded from a single day, Nov. 15, to an entire week. This year Rock Your Mocs will take place from Nov. 13-19. Participants are encouraged to wear either a turquoise awareness ribbon or a pair of moccasins and to post pictures to social media using the hashtag #RYM2016 or #RockYourMocs. According to the official Facebook page for Rock Your Mocs, Atsye hopes the campaign “will continue to reach even further worldwide and inspire cultural pride for Native Americans wherever they may be, as well as anyone who would just like to participate in a fun way of celebrating Indigenous & Native American Peoples and U.S.A.‘s National Native American Heritage Month.” This year I plan on rocking traditional Cherokee moccasins.
So what are traditional Cherokee moccasins? What makes them unique? Cherokees, like many Southeastern Woodland tribes, made each moccasin from a single piece of leather held together by a distinctive front seam. The seam runs from the toes to the arch of the foot. An additional seam runs up the back of the moccasin. Two side flaps create a cuff, usually decorated with ribbon or beadwork. Because of the distinctive seam, Cherokee moccasins are often referred to as “center seam” or “pucker toe” moccasins.
Cherokee Casino West Siloam Springs, Cherokee Casino & Hotel Roland and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa all have displays that include traditional Cherokee moccasins made by contemporary Cherokee artists. The moccasins on display vary from simple buckskin moccasins to elaborately beaded moccasins.
Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism offers moccasin-making classes throughout the year. If you would like to sign up, class dates and times are posted at www.visitcherokeenation.com.