The History of Mukluks

Mukluks are gentle boots typically produced from animal hide, made by Canada's First Peoples for comfort, heat, and mobility in adverse weather conditions and environments. The term 'mukluk' stems from the Yupik term maklak, which means bearded seal – an integral animal for indigenous garments in the north.

The Yupik and Inuit peoples were the main Indigenous congregation within the Arctic who sported mukluks. In the surrounding arctic regions, numerous designs of mukluks as well as moccasins (a strongly-associated, soft shoe) were sported by every Indigenous class in Canada. As Western pioneers appeared during the seventeenth century, they also embraced the now conventional mukluk for survival in the harsh Canadian environment.

How Mukluks Were Produced

Initially, mukluks were produced from moosehide, caribou, or sealskin. However, the boots eventually lifted to the mid-calf or ankle regions, and during winter were encased and insulated with beaver fur, in addition to bears, squirrels, and other creatures.

The gentle, adaptable composition of the mukluk (and moccasin) was appropriate for travelling far distances in frail birchbark canoes during summer and skin kayaks and snowshoes during winter. But the creation of each pair required a large investment of energy and time for both the hunter and artisan. Under normal circumstances, a single pair of mukluks may last a few months, but when the tribes journeyed and conditions were unfavourable, four or five pairs of moose hide mukluks may have been needed, daily.

How European Settlers Changed the Mukluk

When the European fur traders arrived, composition and designing methods started changing. Indigenous women, particularly those in association with trading posts, enacted a vital role in this procedure; Gaining new sewing methods and integrating new styles and materials into their work.

One cause for the welcomed invitation to foreign rearrangement was simply pragmatic expediency. With fabrics and materials ready-made, an artisan was relieved of having to scrape the skin, rinse and tan it, extend the hide and/or even stitch the clothing.

Furthermore, traders also joined in on speeding up and encouraging the change, stimulating the adoption of European fashion style with the hope that Indigenous hunters would allocate more of their time chasing beaver, muskrat, and fox for the fur trade instead of hunting moose or caribou for garments.

This added dominion and influence allowed for mukluk and moccasin compositions to flourish. Pom-poms along with tassels as well as exquisite beading patterns on top of the footbed started appearing, and over time, these designs became customary. Today, you can trace an adorned mukluk back to its specific geological origin.

Present-Day Mukluks

Today, mukluks are a worldwide commodity. Even with contemporary mukluks being outfitted with rubber soles for wet weather conditions in inner-city environments, conventional mukluks are still being produced. Canada's biggest producer of conventional and contemporary mukluks is Winnipeg-based Manitobah Mukluks.

As of late, celebrities and superstars like Beyonce and Kate Moss have brought worldwide recognition to the firm and, as a result, have aided Manitobah with ensuring that the traditional arts remain alive and vibrant in Indigenous communities all over Canada.

Check out Mocs n More's indigenous artist design mukluks collection. All mukluks are Canadian made and they are great for both outdoor and indoor wear.

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