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Personal pieces of history

Andrew Raven
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (Mar 25/05) - Almost every Tuesday night for the last five months, Karylene Isiah has been hovering over a table at the youth centre in Fort Simpson, painstakingly piecing together a pair of beaded moccasins.

"I've never done anything like this before," but it's a lot of fun said the 10-year-old Isiah. "And I thought it would be nice to have a pair of slippers to show my mom."

Elizabeth Hardisty, left, helps Karylene Isiah work on her beaded moccasins in Fort Simpson last week. - Andrew Raven/NNSL photo

Isiah is one of a half-dozen girls and women who gather at the youth centre each Tuesday for a night of moccasin making and chatting.

"Next I want to make mittens," Isiah said.

Under the tutelage of two elders, the women have been working on their moccasins since the fall, making them all from scratch.

"We wanted to promote traditional activities, like sewing, among the youth," said co-ordinator Tanya Hardisty. "The elders are not going to be around forever."

With the beading - perhaps the most time consuming part of the project - the moccasins have taken roughly 50 hours of work, said Hardisty.

Support network, too

But a finished set of moccasins is not the only benefit of the class, Hardisty said. The students - both younger and older - have an opportunity to discuss issues in their life in supportive environment, she said.

"They come to sew, but they also talk about their social life, which is important," Hardisty said.

The half-dozen or so remaining students - several dropped out during the course of the project - should have their moccasins finished by the end of the month.

Hardisty plans to offer another class in the traditional arts - possibly moose hair tufting.

"The kids enjoy it, which is really nice to see," she said.