Jul 7, 2020
Posted in: COVID-19
Sewing Métis Culture into Masks
By Desirae Barker
As the role of face masks becomes more prominent as a means of protection against COVID-19, Angela Bishop, a Saskatchewan Métis woman began creating homemade masks with an Indigenous flare.
Understanding that staying at home and social distancing is not always possible, especially in Indigenous communities where overcrowding and poverty are very real obstacles, Angela began sewing handcrafted masks. The masks were then donated to Indigenous Elders, Elders, veterans, knowledge keepers, and frontline workers in care homes.
With her masks becoming increasingly popular, Angela started thinking of ways to make them more reflective of Métis culture. In May 2020, she approached GDI for donations to help make this possible. GDI readily provided 125 lanyards with a Métis sash imprint that would be sewn onto the masks. “When we created the face masks, we wanted people to take pride in wearing them,” says Angela. GDI was happy to help provide a design that would promote a sense of community culture and solidarity during these times.
Angela along with a group of community mask makers has sewn over 5,000 free masks, with more than half going to communities under lockdown in northern Saskatchewan. The Métis Nation—Saskatchewan (MN—S) commended the efforts of the sewers with a donation of new sewing machines in recognition of their work and contributions to such an important cause.
“One of the things that makes me so proud of our group is that notwithstanding all of these challenges that they were facing, they were there for our communities,” said Angela. “One individual at risk is a family at risk, is a community at risk, is our Nation at risk.”
The group has been sewing masks since early April and has found innovative ways to continually improve their craft. For Elders and veterans who wear hearing aids and may have experienced difficulties with the masks, the group fabricated ear savers to help. They’ve also created many other custom masks.
With donations made by GDI, MN—S and other Métis organizations, Angela stated that she would continue to make masks until she runs out of material.