My Moccasin-Style Slippers

Camila Uriona (+Video)


When I moved to Canada, I couldn’t find an anchor to this land. It was difficult to get rooted. I tried meditating, walking barefoot in the park, reading about Canadian history, but I still felt I wasn’t here.

I started my life, though, like any other immigrant: looking for a job, growing my network, learning how to navigate the city. Although my husband had sponsored me and I arrived as a landed immigrant, there were challenges.

While I write this story, COVID-19 is all we can think and talk about. Who would have thought that the pandemic—through my winter house slippers—would give me the answer to my constant search?

They are Indigenous, hand-crafted, made of tan suede with rabbit fur trim and a beautiful, hand-beaded thunderbird embroidered on the vamp. You can still see an Indigenous chief’s head embossed on the worn-out sole. They are comfortable and the fleece lining is soft and warm. They look stylish, different from the simple-looking slippers I wore back home.

As soon as I started working from home, I began to feel more relaxed without the city’s rush. The abrupt incursion into the new reality allowed me to save hours of commuting. I finally had the opportunity to enjoy my space. Since I had more time, I started reorganizing my house. One day, while decluttering my closet, I found my slippers, which I had hidden from my dog. I love them so much that I was not taking any risks. As I put them on, I felt their softness, and the memories of all that had led up to them came back.

Six years ago, soon after we moved into our very own home, my husband gave me these house moccasins as a gift. They looked so beautiful and elegant that I almost didn’t want to wear them. He mentioned that Indigenous hands in the North had hand-crafted them. “Something Canadian to help you feel more anchored to this land,” he said.

As soon as I heard those words again in my head, I felt they were the connection I had been longing for. Why didn’t I realize that sooner? I thought of the irony: I used to say I was never leaving my country, but I ended up moving to Canada to build the life I had been craving. I needed more stability, a family, kids.

Right after we bought the house, I experienced serious health issues. Trying to get pregnant got complicated. I spent a lot of time between hospitals and transit, daydreaming about the future. Our house full of giggles and toys. Then I had to decide between my health and getting pregnant. Severe endometriosis and a total hysterectomy showed up as a new challenge.

Now, I remember I wore these slippers during my recovery time. If I could turn them into a character in a story, they would be the witness to what happened. They were there then and have always been part of what I went through over the previous six years. I wore them during my period of grief. I wore them in the dark days of winter, and they made me feel rooted, warm and cozy. There is a connection between what they represent and the place I come from, a country where 70% of the population is Indigenous.

My moccasins come from tradition, powerful imagination, hardworking women and men. They carry the history of this land and are a reminder of equity, freedom and reconciliation. I am proud of my roots and my belonging to the True North, the place I chose to call home.

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