Stacey Bradley, an academic adviser at San Juan College, shows off her Assinniboin buckskin moccasins and leggings on Friday at the college.
Stacey Bradley, an academic adviser at San Juan College, shows off her Assinniboin buckskin moccasins and leggings on Friday at the college. (Jon Austria / The Daily Times)

Farmington — When Sherrie Benally put on her moccasins Friday morning, her 4-year-old daughter asked for a pair to wear to school.

Benally was surprised by her daughter's request but assured her that Santa Claus would deliver a pair. Benally said that moment made her proud because her daughter is taking pride in Navajo culture.

Celebrating Native American traditions was one reason 21-year-old Jessica "Jaylyn" Atsye, of Laguna Pueblo, started Rock Your Mocs in 2011. Via a social media campaign, Rock Your Mocs encourages people to wear moccasins one day a year in honor of Native Americans' cultures.

Atsye focused on moccasins because their usage is shared among tribes.

In a press release, Atsye said she hoped the day "will reach even further worldwide and inspire cultural pride for Native Americans wherever they may be as well as anyone who would just like to participate."

Throughout the day, images of people wearing moccasins at work, school and home were posted on the Rock Your Mocs Facebook page.

As for Benally, she wore her kélchí, which is the Navajo word for moccasins, to work at San Juan College. Her mother bought her the moccasins -- a red leather pair with white straps that wrap around her calves -- when Benally was a senior in high school.

Over the years, Benally has worn them to her high school graduation and when she received her bachelor's and master's degrees.

Stacey Bradley, an academic adviser at San Juan College, offered a different style consisting of buckskin moccasins wrapped in leggings accented by blue beads that were from her tribe, the Assinniboin in Fort Belknap, Mont.

Bradley's grandmother made the moccasins while another tribal member made the leggings, which Bradley wore with a buckskin dress.

"It's a fun event, and for me, down here, it's an opportunity to show a different kind of moccasin," she said. "It's an opportunity for me to showcase my tribal cultural."

Bradley received comments about her moccasin throughout the day and one point someone called them "boots."

That error provided Bradley the opportunity to explain why she was wearing moccasins and to share information about her tribe.

Laretina Sandoval, of Farmington, wore her kélchí to campus, which stood out as she walked inside the Henderson Fine Arts Center.

"I think it's an awesome thing that she's started," Sandoval said about Atsye. "It takes a lot for someone young like that to take the initiative to do something, to stand out."

When asked to show her moccasins, Sandoval was happy to display them.

"It's the unity of showing pride in our heritage, in our culture," she said. "I guess it goes back to keeping in touch with who you are, with your roots."

Kirtland Central High School also got into the moccasin mood, according to students Curtissa Manymules and Kenabah Hatathlie, who were at the college's Student Advisement Center on Friday.

Like Benally and Sandoval, Manymules was wearing the Navajo style of moccasins.

"I wear it to represent the Navajo culture and vibe," she said.

All week, the high school celebrated Native American heritage, and a number of students wore moccasins to school Friday.

"I'm proud to be a Native American," Manymules said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and nsmith@daily-times.com. Follow him on Twitter @nsmithdt on Twitter.