Indigenous Face Masks gets 'incredible' response

·2 min read

Children in care at Payukotayno-James and Hudson Bay Family Service will have a face mask to keep them safe during the pandemic thanks to the Indigenous Face Masks initiative.

The agency has received a donation of 80 children's face masks, said Roberta Echum, Payukotayno's communications co-ordinator.

The masks feature a turtle that carries the four colours of the medicine wheel.

"We were overwhelmed, it was such a beautiful gesture coming from them. They reached out to us, we didn't reach out to them," she said.

When Tyson Wesley started the Indigenous Face Masks, he said he didn’t expect such a huge response from all across the country.

In October, Wesley, who’s from Kashechewan First Nation, launched the business selling face masks with Indigenous art. For every mask a customer buys, he sends the same style mask to a child or youth in Indigenous communities.

Masks are available in various designs created by Indigenous artists.

At first, masks were sent to three communities on the James Bay coast: Attawapiskat, Fort Albany and Kashechewan.

“When we started, we only purchased 600 masks. It happened so fast and we just went from there,” Wesley said. “We were able to keep up with demand and after we were able to send as much as possible.”

Since the business launched, Wesley has had about 25,000 orders. The initiative has expanded and masks were sent to more communities all across Canada including in Manitoba, British Columbia and Quebec.

Wesley also sent masks to organizations such as Weeneebayko Health Authority, Payukotayno-James and Hudson Bay Family Services, Dalton Associates, Odawa Native Friendship Centre and Minwaashin Lodge in Ottawa.

On average, Wesley and his partner handle from 50 to 100 orders per day.

“The response from everybody has been incredible. I think our communities are glad that people got face masks, especially children’s face masks which are hard to come by in our communities,” he said. “It’s really overwhelming, seeing pictures of the children wearing the masks. It’s been really nice, it lifts our spirits."

Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,