1630 — The North American fur trade leads to the birth of a new people — the Métis.
1870 — Manitoba becomes a province of Canada. Métis artisans supply handmade goods for emerging markets.
1990 — Métis entrepreneur, Sean McCormick, establishes a trading post in Winnipeg, trading tanned leather for mukluks and moccasins.
2006 — Hollywood celebrities are photographed in the company’s footwear, creating demand worldwide.
Today — Manitobah becomes Canada’s fastest-growing footwear brand, and continues to partner with Aboriginal artisans and organizations.
The Métis are one of three officially recognized Aboriginal groups in Canada. For hundreds of years the Métis wove floral bead patterns into the lives of the tribes on the Northern Plains. The Dakota Sioux and Cree called us “the flower beadwork people.” Today we continue creating footwear that reflects our unique artistic heritage.
Heather Steppler’s maternal ancestors were musically, artistically, and spiritually inclined and include traditional birch bark biters and medicine women.
After obtaining a Fine Arts degree, Heather embraced her heritage by learning beading, medicine picking, Aboriginal crafts, and attending powwows with her husband and two children.
At Manitobah, we use high-quality materials and talented artisans to create the best mukluks and moccasins in the world. It takes a lot of time and effort to produce Manitobah footwear and we take great pride in the comfort, function and beauty we create.
We also take pride in being Canadian, which is why we continue to produce 20 per cent of our footwear at our Aboriginal-owned production facility in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Manitobah is a true Canadian success story. At a time where Canadian manufacturing expertise is on the decline, we are expanding our Canadian production. We are also growing our partnerships with ethical manufacturing partners overseas to ensure there is no limit to the growth of the brand and the impact we can make in our community. This dual production model also offers more choice for consumers.
Occasionally, however, I am asked whether a Canadian Aboriginal-owned company should be working with partners overseas. To me, the answer couldn’t be more clear: I believe our expansion in production leads to a bigger local impact.
As an Aboriginal Canadian, AUTHENTIC to me means being engaged in and contributing to my community. It also means respecting our history while creating positive change for the future. And the best way for me to bring about that change for Aboriginal Canadians is to get as many people wearing Manitobah Mukluks as possible.
Our success allows us to work with more local artists, showcase successful Aboriginal role models and bring our culture to the world. We also invest in education and employment through our partnership with the Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development, and I’m particularly proud of our Storyboot project, which helps revive traditional arts in our communities through business-building partnerships with elders and artisans who fashion mukluks and moccasins the traditional way.
Our Walk With Us program is also making a difference by allowing our customers to share in our vision and direct a portion of their sale to the Manitobah program of their choice. It’s simple. For every pair of Manitobah Mukluks sold, we make a bigger impact in our community.
We are proud of our success on the world stage and we welcome the opportunity to compete against all fashion brands. We will continue to make Manitobah more accessible to more people, and we will continue to make footwear using the same high-quality materials and thousand year-old designs that define us — whether it’s a handcrafted Storyboot, Canadian-made item or a mukluk or moccasin produced outside of Canada. I believe that our success as an Aboriginal business has been due to our willingness to walk forward while honouring our past.
Thank you for walking with us.
CEO and Founder – Manitobah Mukluks
Each year we partner with CAHRD to provide an education bursary that allows Aboriginal students to attend college or university. Together with CAHRD, our hope is to bring self-determination to all Aboriginal people through improved literacy skills and training for new career paths, including working at Manitobah.