News / Toronto

Toronto school hopes to strengthen cultural ties through indigenous arts and crafts

Program designed to help urban aboriginal youth connect with their traditional culture

The Storyboot School has already led some workshops in the city, teaching young students about making traditional indigenous art.

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The Storyboot School has already led some workshops in the city, teaching young students about making traditional indigenous art.

A new school is launching with the aim of keeping indigenous artistry alive among Toronto’s aboriginal youth.

Called Storyboot School, it will operate from the Bata Shoe Museum and offer weekly sessions. It starts next month with about 20 students already signed up to learn about making mukluks — soft traditional boots that are commonly worn by indigenous people, particularly the Inuit.

Future lessons are expected to include handiwork like jewelry making and knitting.

School director Waneek Horn Miller said the growth of multi-generational indigenous families in urban areas means they’re less in touch with their traditional roots.

“Culture used to be transmitted by watching grandmothers and aunties do things,” she said. “This is a revitalization of our culture. We want our youth to have emotional ties with their traditions.”

The school hopes to be more than just a place for youth to learn arts. By reconnecting indigenous youth to their culture, the school hopes to increase their level of confidence and courage to work towards greater goals in life.

The school also wants to encourage more interactions between aboriginal and non-aboriginal youth, an important aspect of the reconciliation process, Miller said.

As for starting with mukluks, it’s important because they carry a big cultural significance in aboriginal communities. Not only did they keep people’s feet warm, they also allowed hunters to move around quietly and quickly.

“You give mukluks to newborns and to couples getting married,” Miller said. “You even bury your dead with a new pair of mukluks.

“It’s a big part of who we are.”

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