$34K equipment donation to help Sask. seamstresses with mask efforts

Prominent Métis lawyer Angela Bishop found 15 seamstresses and together, in the last two months, the so-called “Masked Makers” sewed nearly 5,000 masks for northerners. And they did it all with old equipment.

‘Masked Makers’ have sewn roughly 5,000 masks in the last two months

A group of more than a dozen seamstresses across the province were gifted new sewing machines, fabric and other supplies from Métis Nation-Saskatchewan on May 29, 2020. (Don Somers/CBC News)

When Angela Bishop first heard of the impact COVID-19 was having on Indigenous communities in northern Saskatchewan, she knew she had to help.

Now a donation will help Bishop and those she is working with do even more.

The Métis lawyer from Green Lake, Sask., turned to mask making when the pandemic came to Saskatchewan.

After researching materials and styles, Bishop began sewing. However, it soon became clear she needed help to keep up with demand.

Eventually, Bishop found 15 seamstresses and together, in the last eight weeks, the so-called "Masked Makers" have made nearly 5,000 masks for northerners. They did it all, Bishop noted, with old equipment.

"I've never worked with a team as great as this," Bishop said. "Notwithstanding all these challenges they were facing, they were there for our communities — because an individual at risk, is a family at risk, is a community at risk, is our nations at risk."

Each mask is hand-sewn by one of the Masked Makers. The masks come in a variety of designs. (Don Somers/CBC News)

On Friday, Métis Nation-Saskatchewan (MN-S) donated $34,000-worth of new industrial-style sewing machines and equipment to the group so it could continue its efforts.

"They had worked under adverse conditions, I must say, with old equipment and old tools — using paper scissors sometimes to cut fabric was a feat in itself," said Marg Freisen, the MN-S health minister. 

According to Bishop, most of the masks have gone to locked-down communities in the northwest, with elders and other at-risk people getting first pick.

With files from Don Somers