Quebec Mohawk designer's beaded cape gifted to Michelle Obama
Mohawk designer Tammy Beauvais says 'it's really big for indigenous people to have this honour'
Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau offered a unique gift to Michelle Obama today, during the Trudeau family's visit to the White House: an aboriginal beaded cape.
The cape was made by Tammy Beauvais, a fourth generation artisan from Kahnawake, Que.
It's navy blue, Obama's favourite colour, and includes three small glass beads that belonged to Beauvais's great-grandmother.
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"I only use them once in a while. I put three on the cape, one in each beaded flower," Beauvais said.
"The thought that we were going to get indigenous people to do this work, to make the gifts, to give them as gifts to the president of the U.S and the first lady. It's so big," she added.
'She's the one I'm grateful for'
It all started when Beauvais met Valerie Galley, who is the partner of Assembly of First Nations Chief, Perry Bellegarde. Beauvais was displaying her designs at the chief's gathering in Saskatchewan when Galley stopped, said she loved the pieces, and bought one.
"She's the one I'm grateful for," Beauvais said.
When Justin Trudeau became prime minister last fall, Galley contacted Beauvais to commission a gift for Grégoire-Trudeau, who loved it and sent Beauvais a letter of thanks afterward.
Then, things started to snowball for Beauvais. Grégoire-Trudeau contacted her to make a cape for U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama.
Beauvais is Mohawk, and has been designing since childhood. She started selling her work at 13, and says her business, Tammy Beauvais Designs, has now been running for 17 years.
'Honouring my family'
Beauvais, who always wanted to be a designer since she was a little girl, makes dresses, capes and scarves, many of which carry aboriginal symbols. She says much of the clothing she makes is more contemporary with an indigenous flair.
She said it was a lot of pressure, but she was happy to do it.
"At this time in my career, doing it full time for 17 years, to have this honour ... It totally makes everything worth it," Beauvais said.
"It's honouring my family, the women in my family. It's the strength from those women. I wouldn't be here without them, so it's honouring them."