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Sew special

Wedding moccasins a family tradition

Terry Halifax
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Aug 02/02) - The home of Elizabeth Greenland was transformed into an assembly line of moccasin makers last week, as a group of women beaded, cut and stitched together 37 pair of moose hide moccasins.

It's been a way to give the wedding party and guests something memorable, such as at last Friday's marriage of Elizabeth's son Larry Greenland and Lisa Allen.

Elizabeth's daughter, Sarah O'Brien, said the wedding moccasins are just a way to make a special day even more special.

"It's our tradition," she said. "When someone gets married, we do our best to make it special."

The preparations began almost two months ago.

"I started doing the beadwork in May and my cousin Effie Greenland and Daine Kae also helped," she said.

Her sisters Laurie and Ruth, her daughter Marjory Jane Charlie and Rosie Stewart also came to town to help with the sewing.

"All the beadwork was done and then the ladies came down to help sew," she said.

Elizabeth said all the beading was done by hand and some of the boot tops were done by her grandaughters on the loom.

She bought a whole moosehide that came from Edmonton, but that wasn't enough.

"We ran out of it, so I used some of my own skin too," Elizabeth said.

She laughs when asked how many pairs she's made in her years and says "hundreds."

One pair was re-sewn to fit her grandson.

"These are very, very special" Elizabeth said, holding up a pair with red flower beading.

Sarah adds: "My mom started making these 22 years ago for my dad."

"Just before she finished, he passed away," she said.

"They were half-done and she finished it to give to her younger sister Jane (Charlie)."

"Then they were given to another very special man -- my uncle Johnny."

The slippers have been taken apart and reassembled four times now.

This time they will go to 21 year-old Michael Greenland.

The women also made over 500 donuts for the reception and decorated flower baskets and hair clips were also handmade.

"Jeannie Alexi did all of them. They are beautiful."

Jane Charlie has been working with fur all her life, but while working on the wedding moccasins she started to develop a rash and itchy skin.

"I thought it was from the sun and I didn't want to go to the doctor," she said.

"They gave me pills and it cleared."

Ignoring the doctor's advice, she returned back to the sewing machine at sister Elizabeth's place.

"They told me to quit sewing but I don't, I just keep away from the fur."

By Thursday night, all the slippers were finished and the group admired the job well-done.

Sarah said the weddings take a lot of effort, but they all enjoy the family tradition.

"We all chip in and it's really good to do, because it's a very special wedding."