Skip to main content

Quilting a Year of COVID

March 30, 2021
Summary

An engaging art project uses prototype masks to reproduce a year of COVID in a quilt banner.

Content
  • Image
    Left side of banner
    Caption
    Banner on wall of Public Health Department office in Mistissini
    Credit
    Photo: Alexandra Fortier
  • Image
    March
    Caption
    March 2020: One of our reactions when we first heard we would have to wear masks.
    Credit
    Photo: Alexandra Fortier
  • Image
    April
    Caption
    April 2020: Hunters getting ready to leave for their Goose Break having to wear a mask in the helicopter or plane.
    Credit
    Photo: Alexandra Fortier
  • Image
    May
    Caption
    May 2020: First ever masked Goose Break.
    Credit
    Photo: Alexandra Fortier
  • Image
    June
    Caption
    June 2020: Normally the end of June is marked by graduation ceremonies. This year the celebrations were totally different.
    Credit
    Photo: Alexandra Fortier
  • Image
    July
    Caption
    July 2020: Even our community dogs had to get used to people wearing masks.
    Credit
    Photo: Alexandra Fortier
  • Image
    August
    Caption
    August 2020: Missing summertime fun.
    Credit
    Photo: Alexandra Fortier
  • Image
    September
    Caption
    September 2020: Fall season and feeling tired as the pandemic prolongs.
    Credit
    Photo: Alexandra Fortier
  • Image
    October
    Caption
    October 2020: Hunting season and trapping season. Sharing the harvests to uplift our spirits.
    Credit
    Photo: Alexandra Fortier
  • Image
    November
    Caption
    November 2020: Still wearing masks. With the cold weather, getting annoyed by eyeglass fogging.
    Credit
    Photo: Alexandra Fortier
  • Image
    December
    Caption
    December 2020: Impossible to skip Christmas. Lots of shopping is done online this year.
    Credit
    Photo: Alexandra Fortier
  • Image
    January
    Caption
    January 2021: Mistissini Baby Boom. Some fun in the isolation.
    Credit
    Photo: Alexandra Fortier
  • Image
    February
    Caption
    February 2021: Have to get active and get rid of COVID weight.
    Credit
    Photo: Alexandra Fortier

On March 11, 2020 the World Health Organization declared a state of a global pandemic due to the propagation of the Covid-19 virus originating from Wuhan in China. In a world where people and goods move quickly and easily over oceans and across borders, the people of Eeyou Istchee, including the staff of the CBHSSJB, grew increasingly worried by the contagion risks faced by the region. They knew that even though there were hundreds of miles away in an isolated territory, the disease could eventually make its way here. Doctors and healthcare employees of the Cree Health Board were especially preoccupied by the potential lack of protective equipment for frontline workers, and no one knew when our organization would receive necessary supplies. Thankfully, our staff is resourceful and solution-oriented. A team composed of Dr. Laforest, Dr. Aubin, Véronique Doutreloux, Nicole Jolin, Josée Quesnel and Mae Lafrance organized the small-scale production of homemade face masks that provided protection until commercial and surgical masks became easily available.

 

Louise Gunner Rabbitskin

There are many talents in Eeyou Istchee, and a crew of amazing seamstresses in Mistissini put their ingenuity at work to protect the local populations.

Pictured is Louise Gunner Rabbitskin, one of the seamstresses behind the homemade masks.

Louise Gunner Rabbitskin, Laurie Rabbitskin, Emily Rabbitskin, Juliette Neeposh, Annie Mapachee, Stephanie Sicard-Thibodeau, Nicole Boulanger, Adrienne Roseberry and Josee Quesnel created the first prototypes of Covid-19 masks with textiles donated by Nishiyuu, with a three-layered version being chosen for reproduction. Then, more than 1000 homemade masks were made and distributed to the users of our healthcare services in Eeyou Istchee’s nine communities. These homemade masks were also given to patients and their escorts and families staying at the Espresso Hotel in Montreal. The distribution logistics were handled with the help of Sarah Quint, Marie-Josée Morin and the Cree Health Board’s procurement team. This brilliant project helped many people feel safer at the beginning of the pandemic.

A year has passed and the pandemic remains far from over. Everyone’s lives have been turned upside down by the lockdowns, the closures, the family separations and so many side effects emanating from the ongoing health crisis.

 

Mae Lafrance, one of the originators of the homemade mask project had kept the original prototype masks made by the seamstresses and wanted to make sure this historical moment wasn’t to be forgotten later. So, after the Christmas holidays Mae approached Josee Quesnel with the idea of making a quilt from the prototype masks.

Pictured is one of the prototype masks.

Prototype mask

“Josée is the artist of our team. She is extremely talented and she got on board right away with my madness of the moment,” Mae confides. Josée, who has led other quilt projects in Mistissini, started working on the quilt on February, 15, 2021 and completed a month later, with support from Mae Lafrance and Wally Rabbitskin. The resulting quilt-banner covers the first year of the pandemic, with each of the twelve months being described by an individual square quilt and a caption.

 

The twelve miniature quilts were then sewn together to form a banner that reads like a calendar:

March 2020: One of our reactions when we first heard we would have to wear masks

April 2020: Hunters getting ready to leave for their Goose Break having to wear a mask in the helicopter or plane.

May 2020: First ever masked Goose Break

June 2020: Normally the end of June is marked by graduation ceremonies. This year the celebrations were totally different.

July 2020: Even our community dogs had to get used to people wearing masks

August 2020: Missing summertime fun

September 2020: Fall season and feeling tired as the pandemic prolongs.

October 2020: Hunting season and trapping season. Sharing the harvests to uplift our spirits

November 2020: Still wearing masks. With the cold weather, getting annoyed by eyeglass fogging.

December 2020: Impossible to skip Christmas. Lots of shopping is done online this year.

January 2021: Mistissini Baby Boom. Some fun in the isolation

February 2021: Have to get active and get rid of Covid weight

 

  • Image
    Vaccination team in front of quilt in Mistissini
    Caption
    The Mistissini vaccination team at the Sports Complex poses in front of the quilt banner.
    Credit
    Photo: Joshua Loon
  • Image
    Woman pointing at quilt and explaining it to visitors
    Caption
    Vaccination worker shows off the quilt to interested community members

Upon completion, the quilt-banner paying tribute to the first attempts to protect our population from Covid-19 found a permanent home in Mistissini’s Public Health building, where employees are pleased to see this recent history artistically documented. Currently the quilt-banner has been loaned to the Sport Complex, where the campaign for the vaccine’s second dose is ongoing. It is a promotional tool and also gives people the chance to appreciate an artwork deeply intertwined with our battle against Covid-19.

 

Explore more

 I wear a mask to protect you. You wear a mask to protect me. We wear masks as a sign of respect for each other. 

ᓂᔒᔫ ᒥᔪᐱᒫᑎᓰᐅᓐ ᔦᐦᔦᐙᔅᐱᓀᐎᓐ ᐊᔨᒧᐎᓐ
Published on
Thu, Jan 28 2021

We remind everyone of the importance of faith and prayer for Miyupimaatisiiun (health and wellbeing).

Our Partners

Image
Grand Council of the Crees logo
Image
Santé et des Services sociaux logo
Image
Health Canada logo