Cree artist launches shoe collection celebrating Indigenous language

‘These ideals we carry as First Nations, Inuit and Metis people…I thought that would be an amazing thing to celebrate on a shoe.’

Lance Cardinal launches shoe collection

Lance Cardinal and Kunitz Shoes launch new shoe collection. Photo: Danielle Paradis/APTN


Lance Cardinal sets out his collection of green, purple and yellow shoes, decorated with syllabics and Métis flowerwork. 

The artist from Bigstone Cree Nation launches a shoe collection that tells stories from the First Nations, Inuit and Métis cultures.

“Shoes are something everyone loves and adores and of course, for me as an artist, there’s nothing more amazing than being celebrated for my work,” said Cardinal. 

“These shoes are about showing people who we are, making them less afraid of who we are.” 

Lance Cardinal, speaking about the launch of a new shoe collection
Lance Cardinal launches a new shoe collection based on Indigenous ideals. Photo: Danielle Paradis/APTN

Cardinal collaborated with Kunitz shoes for the designs. There are different styles in the collection from slippers to ballet flats and boots. 

“About a year ago I was approached by the Kunitz family here in Edmonton. One of the most amazing local, family-owned shoe stores. They wanted to talk about working together to create a line of shoes to celebrate Indigenous culture, language and work towards reconciliation” said Cardinal.

Cardinal said that he looked at Indigenous ideals as inspiration for the shoes.

“We looked at how we could use the actual physical language itself—a syllabic patterns. To celebrate in a contemporary and fun way,” he said. 

“We also looked at teachings like the seven sacred grandfather teachings for inspiration from our shoes.”

Enn fleur showcases Métis flowerwork, a part of Lance Cardinal’s collection. Photo: Danielle Paradis/APTN

According to elders, seven grandfather teachings are associated with a traditional Potawatomi and Anishinaabe story that have been passed down orally for generations. 

There are other First Nations that have similar stories as well and the term has been adopted by other nations.

“These ideals we carry as First Nations, Inuit and Métis people… I though that would be an amazing thing to celebrate on a shoe. To say ‘I follow this Red Road and the shoes I am wearing celebrate that,’” said Cardinal.

The Red Road is a metaphor for following a spiritual way of life for First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.

“I always look to my local Treaty 6 elders for my language and stories. I also go to my mom, who is my language specialist. She gives me all my direction,” said Cardinal.

Cardinal’s mother is Marilyn Buffalo, who runs the Nechi Institute training facilitators who deal with mental health and addiction.

“The ideas I put in these shoes are across Canada… we believe language is important and in bringing back syllabics,” said Cardinal.

The newly launched shoe collection includes a Métis sandal, called “enn fleur” the Michif word for flower.

“This is all about the beautiful Métis patterns we see in art work and beadwork and the First Nations and French collaborative cultures that have come together to create that Métis culture,” said Cardinal.

There is also a boot, called the honouring boot.

launches shoe collection
The honour boot, with money going towards local grassroots groups. Photo: Danielle Paradis/APTN

“This is all about honouring our murdered and missing Indigenous girls and their families. This boot has the iconic handprint and the letters MMIW,” said Cardinal.

“All the proceeds from the boot are going to grassroot organizations in Edmonton, to support the family of MMIW women. 

“I think these important movements are a new phase of reconciliation… reconcili-action. We know what these things are and now it is time to take action and do something about it.” 

Cardinal said as an artist he tries to appeal to all Indigenous people with this new collection.

“It is a moment for all of our people,” said Cardinal.