Old Crow elder makes beaded name tags for local RCMP

'A lot of RCMP members left Old Crow with those tags. Maybe they’re all across Canada, for all I know,' says Shirley Kakfwi.

'They want it, I guess. That's why I do it,' says Shirley Kakfwi

Yukon RCMP recently asked Kakfwi to have a picture taken with some Old Crow officers sporting their custom-made, beaded name tags. (RCMP/Facebook)

Shirley Kakfwi, an avid beader in Yukon's most remote community, has developed an unlikely sort of cottage industry — making beaded name tags for the police.

"They want it, I guess. That's why I do it," Kakfwi said from her home in Old Crow. She had paused work on another beading project to take CBC's phone call.

Kakfwi made her first RCMP name tag a few years ago. She'd become good friends with an officer stationed in the community.

"One day, she just said, 'Do you sew?' And I said, 'Yeah, lots.' She said, 'Make me a name tag with beads, using the RCMP colours," Kakfwi recalled.

"Then she wanted some more for her friends, and then she wanted some more for her workers, and it just went on from there."

The RCMP's northernmost detachment in Yukon is in Old Crow. (Alexandra Byers/CBC)

The oval tags are blue, white and yellow, and can be affixed to the officers' uniforms.

"They have that, what they call it? Velcro," she said.

And Kakfwi does not mess around with the design of her tags, or the colours. She's consistent and she makes sure she always has the right beads on hand. 

A lasting keepsake

Yukon RCMP recently posted a picture online of Kakfwi, posing with some smiling officers proudly sporting their custom-made tags.

Cpl. Pat Russell, the detachment commander, says RCMP policy doesn't give officers a lot of leeway to alter their uniforms — but the name tags are fairly "discreet."

That's a keepsake I'll have for the rest of my career.- Cpl. Pat Russell, Old Crow detachment commander

"You know, we're not wearing beaded jackets to work," he said, laughing. "It's just one small item that can be changed on our uniform that we can wear proudly."

Russell said it's about making connections and showing "fondness" for working with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation.

RCMP Cpl. Pat Russell says it's a keepsake he'll have for the rest of his career. (RCMP)

"That's going to be lasting," he said. "That's a keepsake I'll have for the rest of my career."

He won't be the first to leave with such a prized keepsake. RCMP officers come and go often from Old Crow, and Kakfwi figures she's made about 20 names tags over the years.

"A lot of RCMP members left Old Crow with those tags," she said. "Maybe they're all across Canada, for all I know."

Written by Paul Tukker based on an interview by George Maratos


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