When the owner of New Balance made plans to visit Brainsport in 2018, Brainsport Owner Brian Michasiw knew he needed to do something to honour the occasion.
Michasiw wanted to present Jim Davis with a gift — one that showcased Saskatoon and also paid homage to the fact that New Balance and Brainsport are in the shoe business.
So Michasiw met with his friend Derek Rope, who owns a First Nations consulting business Medicine Rope Strategies to explore potential ideas. Together they decided to reach out to Cree artist Katelyn Paskemin to create a pair of full-beaded moccasins, complete with the New Balance logo.
“We thought it would be really fitting to offer footwear to the owner of one of largest shoe companies in the world,” Michasiw said. “To the best of my knowledge, it was Jim Davis’s first visit to Saskatchewan. We wanted to make sure to present him with a gift that showed him our appreciation for his visit and being such a great partner.”
Michasiw needed to make a few phone calls to determine Davis’ shoe size (9.5) and then Paskemin started putting the moccasins together. Learning about the process was eye-opening for Michasiw. Full-beaded moccasins can take in the ballpark of 90 hours to complete, from sourcing the moose hide, designing the artwork and bringing it to life in the completion of the moccasins.
Brian wanted his visitors to experience his business as well as the diverse and rich community in which he lives. When Davis arrived at Brainsport, he was greeted with an Indigenous honour song and a smudging ceremony, and an opportunity to learn a little about the culture and significance of these Indigenous practices.
Davis learned that Brainsport is located on Treaty Six territory and homeland of the Metis people and heard about the Truth of Reconciliation calls to action, which includes a call for businesses to provide equitable access to jobs, training, and education opportunities. Davis and staff spoke about the Indigenous-run athletic events that Brainsport works with and contributes to, including the North American Indigenous Games and the Tony Cote Summer and Winter Games.
“Brian used that opportunity not to talk about how great his business was, but to use that opportunity to talk about how great his community is and how diverse his community is and how much there’s a need to build better relationships and pathways forward that celebrate that and recognize the strength in that,” Rope recalls.
Davis appeared moved by the gesture and Brainsport has continued to commission full-beaded moccasins to give as gifts to special guests as a way to create awareness and help support Indigenous artisans.
A pair with the On logo were commissioned in the fall of 2019 for On Canada President Chris Billick when he was visiting Saskatoon and a pair with the BILLY Footwear logo were made this spring to give to owner Billy Price, who had planned to give a talk at Brainsport in March before restrictions in place because of COVID-19 closed borders and forced cancellations of mass gatherings.