This collection of personal protective equipment (PPE) includes the work of Lisa Longtime Sleeping at the top, Lola Wippert and her family on the bottom right and left, and surgery caps made by Nora Lukin and Mary Lukin at the bottom, middle.

When the pandemic started, Native Life worried about their future. Business slowed, and they were concerned that they may end up closing their doors forever. This was exacerbated by the quarantine when they had to close their doors to the public. To adapt, Native Life began taking phone orders and website orders and offering curbside pickup as part of the social distancing efforts. 

And then came the mask making. People stopped working on their usual sewing projects and began making masks. An amazing group of community members emerged and began volunteering to make masks for people in need. There are too many volunteers to list, but we all need to applaud their efforts. They are our unsung heroes.

Native Life is collaborating with several community groups that started to mobilize and organize the community mask making effort. Tina Gauthier started a Facebook Group to organize mask making for Glacier County. They are focusing on healthcare facilities, essential workers, elders and at-risk individuals in both Browning and Cut Bank. She has a group of individuals in Cut Bank volunteering, and they work with Coulee Quilts in Cut Bank.

Kim Paul of Pikuni Lodge Health Institute secured funds from Hopa Mountain to purchase fabric to make masks for elders, immune-compromised individuals and healthcare workers. 

Kim Paul’s group is delivering food, masks, disinfecting supplies and other essentials to elders and immune-compromised people on all of the Blackfeet Reservation. They even delivered on Easter. Private donors have also purchased fabric and supplies to make masks.

There are also some real champions who have stepped up. Several have sewing micro-businesses and are using their own supplies to make masks, for example Lola Wippert and Carlene Salois. Lola got her daughter Jennifer Reed and other family involved, and they have made hundreds on their “assembly line.” Carlene is homebound with her sick husband and has sewn countless items. Nora and Mary Lukin have sewn masks and surgery caps for healthcare workers and have donated fabric and supplies to those who need it. Other sewers include Tina Fish, Marie Gussman, Gaylene Ducharme, Dorothy Champine, Lisa Bullcalf, Delora Bear Child and others. Lots of other sewers in the community have really stepped up as well.

Native Life is grateful to their customers and community volunteers. As their way to give back, they have donated mask making supplies, volunteered to be a mask drop off and pick up site. They are remaining active in community organization efforts, giving free advice to individuals wanting to make their own masks, using social media to get information out to the community and offering 40% off a selection of high quality cotton fabric for mask making. 

Native Life is a specialty fabric and gift store located in Browning. Native Life carries all things Native, western, wildlife, quilting and powwow. They have high quality quilting fabric, specialty powwow fabric, Native prints, Native fleece, western prints, wildlife fabric as well as all of the notions you need.

They are not just a fabric store. Native Life is known for Star Quilt making. Lisa teaches community members to make these coveted quilts. Native Life has a unique line of specialty gifts for everyone in the family. They also stock specialty notions and accessories for quilting, sewing and making Native dance regalia. 

The need for masks has increased since the passing of the new Tribal ordinance that requires masks when going out in the public. Many of the community volunteers are paying out of their pocket to make free masks for our community. Hopa Mountain and a few private donors have contributed as well. If you or your organization would like to donate to the cause, contact Native Life at 406-338-7888.

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