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Cariboo-made face masks honour missing and murdered Indigenous women

Dana Alphonse has received a tremendous amount of interest in her face masks

A member of the Williams Lake First Nation is raising awareness surrounding missing and murdered Indigenous women amid the COVID-19 pandemic through face masks.

“You hear these stories constantly happening,” said Dana Alphonse, who lives on reserve at Sugar Cane.

“It’s sad.”

After purchasing two solid-coloured face masks —one for her daughter who is returning to high school and the other for herself, Alphonse created a design of a red hand print across the mouth which has become a symbolic representation of violence affecting Indigenous women.

She then reached out to her friends on Facebook to see if there would be enough interest for her to make them.

“After I posted there were so many messages for them,” Alphonse said, adding she began selling the face masks the next morning.

“I’m going to keep selling them because it helps raise awareness for murdered and missing Indigenous women. You see it everywhere across Canada and the statistics are really crazy, and a lot of people don’t know, they just don’t know.”

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Alphonse intends to donate a portion of the proceeds from the face masks to Chiwid Transition House in Williams Lake —a safe haven for women and their children fleeing abuse.

She said she received an order for 12 face masks from staff at Lake City Secondary Columneetza Campus as well as orders from across Canada and the United States in Oregon, Ohio and New York.

“I’m learning shipping, and I’m learning shipping is really expensive,” she told the Tribune earlier this week.

Primarily through her traditional beadwork Alphonse has attracted a large social media following — more than 400 followers on Instagram, 10,000 on Tik Tok and 1,500 on her Facebook group Innovative Indigenous Creations.

“I just started that a few years ago and people liked what I was doing and I just continued on with it to the point where now I don’t even have anything in stock. I’m always booked with orders for beadwork,” she said, noting her great-grandmother Lily (Ma) raised her children on beadwork.

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After Lily lost her husband in a hit and run in Williams Lake, Alphonse said her great-grandmother would sell her hand-made crafted products to help support her three biological children and three adopted children. She had a large garden and would also create buckskin vests through traditional tanning that she’d then sell to local cowboys.

Alphonse said beading is meticulous and time consuming work.

“I had a son two years ago, and I still haven’t been able to find daycare in Williams Lake so I had to find another way to raise income,” Alphonse said, of having added Indigenous-inspired T-shirts to the mix.

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