Programs & Services

This August, MIAC Unveils Stepping Out: 10,000 Years of Walking the West, an exhibition of sandals, beautifully decorated moccasins, and contemporary footwear from across the Western United States

June 8th, 2017


Tricia Ware (505) 603-0356

Shoes do more than protect the feet. They also tell us something about human identity, lifeways, and love

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 9, 2017 (Santa Fe, NM)—The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture announced today that it will mount Stepping Out: 10,000 Years of Walking the West, an exhibit of sandals, beautifully decorated moccasins, and contemporary footwear from across the Western United States, Sunday, August 27, 2017—September 3, 2018.

Today, media professionals, curators, and Native Art enthusiasts were granted a behind-the-scenes look at the artifacts, including yucca sandals and beaded moccasins, alongside contemporary high-fashion footwear from today’s Native artists including Teri Greeves, Lisa Telford, and Emil Her Many Horses.

“You’ve heard the expression, ‘walk a mile in someone’s shoes,’” said Stepping Out curator Maxine McBrinn today, “but by merely looking at these shoes, you can learn a lot about the wearer and his or her life experience. For example, the size of the shoe tells you if it belonged to a child, a woman, or a man. The wear pattern reveals the wearer’s gait, physical health, and possibly age. The style and materials reveal who these wearers were and where they came from.”

The public will be able to see the collection for the first time at the opening reception, Sunday, August 27, noon–4 pm, free with museum admission

McBrinn said the style of the shoe holds clues about belonging, love, and social aspiration. For example, beaded moccasins are time-consuming to make, comfortable to wear, and beautiful to behold. Moccasins created for a family member will often reflect the love and commitment of the maker toward the wearer. Some styles of footwear were reserved for those with status, wealth, or special roles in society.

Footwear is influenced by the environment (hot, cold, stony, soft), the materials available (leather, plants, beads, quills), and cultural tradition—all of which change over time. Stepping Out allows visitors to journey through the past with the feet of those who have gone before leading the way.

“This exhibition was inspired by my personal research in ancient sandals, but when I interviewed at MIAC and saw the collections, I realized that we had a wonderful collection of Plains and Southwest beaded footwear that had never been seen by the public,” McBrinn said. “Being able to conclude the exhibit with great examples of things contemporary Native artists are creating today adds another chapter to the story that shoes can tell us.”

Photo credits from top:

Beaded sole moccasins, Sioux, prior to 1890. Hide, cloth, glass beads, tin, horse hair. Museum of Indian Arts and Culture catalog #26290/12. Photo by Christopher Dorantes.

Woman’s moccasins, Shoshone-Bannock, 1920–1940. Hide, glass beads, metal buttons, ribbon. Museum of Indian Arts and Culture catalog # 26246/12. Photo by Christopher Dorantes.

Basketmaker II sandal, Ancestral Pueblo, ca. AD 200–500. Yucca fiber, hide, ocher. Museum of Indian Arts and Culture catalog #53778/11. Photo by Christopher Dorantes.

The MUSEUM of INDIAN ARTS AND CULTURE, one of four museums in the Museum of New Mexico system, is a premier repository of Native art and material culture and tells the stories of the people of the Southwest from pre-history through contemporary art. The museum serves a diverse, multicultural audience through changing exhibitions, public lectures, field trips, artist residencies, and other educational programs.


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Man’s moccasins, Mescalero Apache, early 1900s. Hide, glass beads, tin, ochre. Museum of Indian Arts and Culture catalog # 49295/12.

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