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One bead at a time

Andrew Raven
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (Mar 28/05) - In the craft lessons at the youth centre in Fort Simpson, friendship has become as important a part of the workshops as learning how to make a beautiful moccasin.

Almost every Tuesday night for the last five months, Karylene Isiah has been hovering over a table at the youth centre, 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.

"And I thought it would be nice to have a pair of slippers to show my mom."

Isiah is one of a group of girls and women who gather at the youth centre on Tuesdays evenings for 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

But a finished set of moccasins is not the only benefit of the class, Hardisty said.

Sewing together provides both younger and older students with an opportunity to discuss issues in their life in a supportive environment.

"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.