Saskatchewan

Thousands of masks being made in homes across Sask.

Many Saskatchewan people — from lawyers, to Indigenous powwow regalia makers, to local designers — are making masks at home.

Lawyers, Indigenous powwow regalia makers, local designers all stepping up

Brooklyn Eaglevoice-Whitestar (pictured) helps her mother, Angel Whitestar, create face masks to help keep people in her community safe from COVID-19. (Supplied by Angel Whitestar)

People all over Saskatchewan are stepping up to make masks in hopes of slowing the spread of COVID-19.

Angel Whitestar, originally from Ocean Man First Nation, owns and operates Red Road Fashions out of her home on Piapot First Nation. She normally sews traditional garments for Indigenous people who dance powwow or simply want something nice to wear. 

Lately, her orders have changed.

"When it first started I was looking at my fabric and wondering how I was going to help?"

Whitestar has now creating masks to help keep people safe during the pandemic She has already produced hundreds.

Angel Whitestar creates COVID-19 masks from her home and recently made a Facebook video to help others create their own. (Facebook/Angel Wápiski-acáhk)

It has turned into a family affair. 

"My two daughters started watching, and they said they wanted to start helping people feel safe, so they help me now," Whitestar said. 

Her masks have been shipped as far as B.C. and used locally at places like Ranch Ehrlo. 

"People say they do feel a lot safer," she said. 

The mother of five sometimes charges $5 to $10 per mask to cover the cost of supplies, but elders and children get them free. 

Whitestar even created a Facebook video to help people make their own masks. 

"I made a little template and I shared it," Whitestar said. 

From courtroom to sewing table

On the other side of the province, in Christopher Lake, another woman's day-to-day career has taken a different turn. 

Angela Bishop, a Métis woman from Green Lake, Sask., is a lawyer, but lately she is devoting her time to co-ordinating mask-making efforts by people all across the province. They have been shipped as far as Calgary and Peterbourough, Ont.

A COVID-19 Kokum scarf face mask made by Angela Bishop. (Facebook/Angela Bishop)

Bishop said that in her case, no one is making money off of the initiative. 

"People before profit. If we can, then we should. And I can. I purchased all the materials," Bishop said. 

"Some people may not have the capacity to help and that's alright. That's fine, meet everyone where they are."

She said she is focusing on making masks for children, elders and home care workers. 

A Cree COVID-19 face mask: 'awas' means 'Stay away! Get away!' in Cree says Angela Bishop who makes these masks. (Facebook/Angela Bishop)

Regina designer makes masks for people in need

In Regina, designer Dean Renwick has co-ordinated the making of more than 1,000 masks and has an order for 400 more. 

He said more than 50 people, including his mother and sister, have contributed sewing, materials and cash to the effort.

"The people in this city have stepped up like no other," Renwick said.

He said his masks are 100 per cent cotton, making them more breathable. They also have elastic bands that go all the way around the head to make them more comfortable.

Dean Renwick has created over one thousand COVID-19 masks for those in need with the help from his family and many volunteers. (CBC)

Renwick said that he is getting more volunteer offers all the time. 

He sends volunteers packages with what they need to make 25 masks. Those masks go to care homes, nurses and seniors across the province. He said some of his volunteers are on their fourth or fifth kit.

"We just become the distribution and the logistic centre. It's everybody in the city that comes together as one that makes us an amazing city." 

He said that he credits the initiative to teachings from his family. 

"My grandparents taught us when things are down you step in and you help and so that's all we're doing,"  Renwick. 

"I just want to showcase the people of Regina and how they all stepped up and met the demand,"

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ntawnis Piapot is Nehiyaw Iskwew from Piapot Cree Nation. She has a journalism degree from the University of Regina, and is a graduate from the INCA Media and Intercultural Leadership Program from the First Nations University. Ntawnis has been a reporter for CBC Saskatchewan, APTN National News, CTV Regina, VICE News, J-Source and Eagle Feather News. Email: ntawnis.piapot@cbc.ca

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