BILLINGS — Little Big Horn College's Ak Bacheeitchiilewioosh Youth Leadership Council met Saturday at the MSU Billings Native American Achievement Center to learn the traditional art of moccasin making.
“It starts right with their feet. They’re learning how to make these moccasins and get on that cultural path. We talk to them in our language, we speak Crow to them, and we want them to learn leadership and continue on in life knowing who they are and not forgetting where they come from," said one of the organizers of the council, Jonella Hill.
About a dozen students were taught how to measure their feet and make patterns to design their own buckskin moccasins.
For many, this was their first experience learning how to bead. The group hopes that once the youth members learn how to make their own, they can then teach others and keep the tradition alive.
"In order for them to start learning and having awareness of who they are and where they come from, they need to walk in the shoes of their ancestors. They were pretty tough people back then and they used moccasins to get anywhere," said Noel Two Leggins, another organizer.
Many of the participants, like Vanessa Afraid of Bear, watched their own grandparents make moccasins growing up.
“I’m almost making my ancestors proud because this is something obviously they did, and for me, to be in a society that we are but still able to return and do that, I think is really significant to me to know how to do it for myself and generations to come," Afraid of Bear said.
Moccasin making is just one of several activities the council hopes to share with the younger generation. The group is planning on wearing their moccasins in the spring for powwows.