Sieanna uses her mom’s sewing machine to make face masks. (Photo submitted)

Family bond strengthened through mask-making

A B.C. Indigenous youth is making face masks for firefighters after having made some for family

Firefighters from a B.C. First Nations economic development corporation will be wearing face masks handmade by a young girl.

When she’s not watching YouTube videos, knitting or keeping busy with school work at home, 11-year old Seianna Harry of Williams Lake uses her mother’s sewing machine to make face masks.

Seianna recently started making masks for family after receiving a template from her grandmother and is currently working to complete an order of 30 masks for firefighters of the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem’s development corporation, SXDC Ltd.

As Seianna’s mother, Annie, helps cut the material featuring random colourful designs and characters such as the Hulk and Tweety Bird, Seianna said it takes approximately five minutes to make one mask.

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She has already completed 40 masks for family members. One mask has even gone to Stswecem’c Xgat’tem (Canoe Creek/Dog Creek) Chief Patrick Harry who proudly displayed a Spider-Man facemask during a virtual Secwepemc Health Caucus town hall meeting on May 22 made by Seianna.

Her dad, Clayton, who manages Stswecem’c Xgat’tem Development Corporation Ltd. (SXDC Ltd.) could not be more proud.

“We’ve got a ton of forestry crews and we’re going into fire season right now so we’ve ordered a bunch of masks and Seianna just happened to be making those,” he said.

“Her mom does all the cutting and she does all the sewing. It’s been a good process to watch them working together. It went probably a lot further than we expected; it was from her wanting to do it for family and then it just got a lot bigger.”

Seianna hopes to have the handmade masks complete for the firefighters by Wednesday, May 27.

Because the pandemic has closed schools and shifted many to now work from home, Clayton said they have been able to spend more time together with Seianna and her older brother and sister.

Seianna has learned sewing from her great-grandmother, grandmother, mother and herself. Clayton described Seianna as a very self-motivated child who has even taught herself to knit and start playing the piano.

Read More: B.C. transit agencies encourage face masks, step up sanitizing as Phase Two begins

“I’m very proud of her,” he said. “I think that just the start for her to take something on like that was probably something to help with understanding the pandemic, and I’m very proud of her in doing that and being able to get it started for family and doing some more for others.”

The First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) is promoting non-medical (homemade) masks as one tool that can be used by First Nations community members and the general public during the COVID-19 pandemic to limit the spread of the disease.

Homemade masks are recommended for use in situations where you cannot physically distance yourself from others.

“In the last week and a half the FNHA has put some orders for what we call non-medical grade PPE, and we’re going to make these available to the communities,” said FNHA director of corporate services, Chuck Wilmink. “There has been big demand for security checkpoints, band offices and schools.”


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Clatyon Harry says he is proud of his daughter’s efforts to make face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Rebecca Dyok photo)

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