WEEK TWO Eabametoong
Greetings from Eabametoong, a fly-in First Nations community 370 kilometres north of Thunder Bay.
These are photos of Week Two of several trips I have planned to establish the Sewing Circle Project in this remote home and ancestral land of about 2000 Anishnaabe. Located on the shore of Lake Eabamet, where the Albany River flows into the lake and surrounded by boreal forests, the people have deep connections to this land.
Here is the Nakina Air, 8 seat propeller plane that takes me from Thunder Bay to Eabametoong.
I arrived on May 3, at 5pm, quickly checked in to the Eabametoong Inn and went straight to the Sewing Circle site. Waiting for me there was the project leader Paul Holcroft and several other men intent on making a large teepee cover. 18 to 20 feet in diameter at the base and 25 ft high at the peak, this teepee was needed to hold traditional ceremonies.
After some calculations to figure out how to cut and join the fabric to achieve the desired size, we got to work. Below is Weebin Slipperjack, the man who helped me understand exactly what he wanted. It was a true collaboration, with me contributing the technical expertise, fabric and construction suggestions and Weebin and the others guiding the whole process with their knowledge of the traditions and culture. That's Daisy Slipperjack looking on from the sidelines.
We used a special heavy-duty thread on this Juki industrial sewing machine. The fabric is a water repellent, durable polyester and cotton blend. It took two people just to feed the large pieces into the machines, while I sewed.
The thread is specially made to resist deterioration caused by prolonged exposure to direct sunlight and moisture.
Family members dropped in to see the project. This baby in his camouflage print onesie was so cute. That's Fred with his daughter and grandson. We worked until midnight but got the whole teepee cover sewn together. It was a fun and productive evening.
So excited to see the teepee erected for the Eabametoong Pow Wow this summer.
The next day, Angela and Daniel Waswa (seated), were joined by Hanna to receive training on making a pattern, then cutting and sewing a garment of their own design. Here, Daniel is showing Hanna how to use the 4 thread industrial serger by Juki.
Daniel really wanted a new hooded pullover made from this camouflage printed cozy fleece. He specifically wanted a pouch pocket in the front and a deeper one in the back to carry his bullets and a sandwich when he goes out hunting.
That's a professional pressing station behind Daniel.
All day people drop in to the Sewing Circle to see what's going on. Some stay and try out the machines, others ask questions and look at the beautiful fabrics.
There are lots of children in the community. These girls love hanging out at the Sewing Circle and sometimes follow me around.
One evening there was a feast, celebrating the partnership between the City of Markham and Eabametoong. Chief Elizabeth Atlookan and the Band Council members hosted the mayor of Markham and two Councillors. The drumming group was awesome.
This gathering was also to celebrate initiatives to bring tourism to the community. With all the media about issues in First Nations communities in the north, this is a chance for people to travel here, see for themselves and better understand the situation. It is also a chance to experience the beauty of the waters, lands and forests.
The sewing machines were humming as trainees practised making tank tops and dresses with beautiful fabrics provided by Syd Textiles.
This is Hannabelle.
Sisters Emily, Lily and Sheila formed an awesome team in the Lean Manufacturing cell.
On the 7th day, I attended a 'Careers Day' at the school and showed all the things we had produced in the Sewing Circle.
As I was leaving I looked back on the wilderness surrounding the community. I will return in 10 days to continue the training.
The one hour flight to and from Thunder Bay is the only way to get supplies in and for residents to leave to shop for for clothing and other necessities, often at Walmart. The cost of the round trip is $500.
The goal of the Sewing Circle Project is to manufacture the clothing and other soft goods needed by the community, made by the people there. As a result, jobs will be created and the business will also supply other First Nations. Online sales will be generated through a robust social media strategy.
What name will be on everything?
Read my next blog to find out.