‘More connected than we know:’ Cree musician sending masks to Navajo Nation

‘More connected than we know:’ Cree musician sending masks to Navajo Nation

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — Jacob Faithful says he knew he had to do something when he learned a fellow member the Young Spirit music group and several of his relatives had fallen ill with COVID-19 in a hard-hit Indigenous community in the southwestern United States.

“My heart just sank and I was immediately frightened and not knowing what the outcome would be,” said the musician and businessman from Frog Lake First Nation in northeastern Alberta.

“I really started to question the systems that are in place and why isn’t there enough support around protecting our people?”

Faithful heads up Young Spirit, a Grammy-nominated drumming group that sings in Plains Cree and has members throughout the Western U.S. and Canada.

He also runs a sanitation supply company out of Lethbridge, Alta., which has been busy during the pandemic trying to get enough masks, disinfectant and other products to First Nations.

The Navajo Nation, which covers parts of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, has been hit particularly hard during the pandemic, with close to 7,000 cases and more than 300 deaths.

About a month ago, Faithful found out a group member, who doesn’t want his name published, had tested positive for the novel coronavirus along with his partner, step children and in-laws in Arizona.

Everyone has recovered, but Faithful said it was a scary time.

“It was pretty tough to see him go through that and to hear the struggle in his voice when I spoke to him on the phone,” he said of his friend. “Just to even put out words was a struggle for him.”

He said friends and relatives in the Navajo Nation have described a mental toll of isolation, with strict curfews and patrols in the community.

Faithful tried to figure out a way to leverage Young Spirit’s fan base, and his own business, into a way to help.

He reached out to Navajo artist Craig George and commissioned a piece to be printed on T-shirts. For each shirt sold, Faithful is sending five protective masks to the Navajo Nation.

The front of the black t-shirts have a vibrantly-hued painting showing a Navajo woman in profile wearing a mask and wrapped in a blanket. Within the blanket is a Young Spirit singer with a drum.

The back of the shirt says “#YS4Dinetah,” expressing the group’s support for the Navajo people.

“It ended up being pretty wicked,” Faithful said.

There were about 70 orders for the shirt as of Friday afternoon. Faithful already has silk-screening equipment set up in his home to make Young Spirit merchandise, and he figures he can bang out 150 shirts a day with the help of family members.

George’s painting is expected to arrive any day now, after which Faithful can scan it and get to shirt-printing.

“We found a way to be part of the solution for a struggling tribe,” he said.

“I want people to know that we’re a lot more connected than we really know. We’re a lot more connected to the rest of the world than we think we are.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

City council will have to wait longer to hear back from administration on possible alternative sites — if the homeless shelter is moved from Red Deer downtown. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).
Alternative sites for homeless shelter will be explored by the City of Red Deer

Council gave administration more time to return with a report

Quentin Lee Strawberry was found not guilty of second-degree murder in connection with stabbing death of Joseph Gallant in March 2019. (Photo from RCMP)
Updated: O’Chiese man found not guilty of 2019 stabbing death of Red Deer man

Quentin Strawberry found guilty of assaulting murdered man’s common-law partner

(Advocate file photo).
City of Red Deer property tax bills are in the mail

Red Deer 2021 tax notices are on their way. Red Deer property… Continue reading

‘Dear Future Children’ takes top audience prize at Hot Docs film festival

‘Dear Future Children’ takes top audience prize at Hot Docs film festival

FILE - Signage promoting the 77th annual Golden Globe Awards and NBC appears in Beverly Hills, Calif. on Jan. 5, 2020. NBC said Monday that will not air the Golden Globes in 2022. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)
Amid outcry, NBC says it will not air Golden Globes in 2022

Amid outcry, NBC says it will not air Golden Globes in 2022

RCMP officers work at the scene after a shooting outside the international departures terminal at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. Homicide investigators expect to release more information about a deadly shooting in Burnaby on Saturday that police say could be linked to a similar slaying at Vancouver's airport just one day later. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘We will do everything we can,’ B.C. police say to reassure public amid gang violence

‘We will do everything we can,’ B.C. police say to reassure public amid gang violence

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks during a briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, Wednesday, May 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
US ship fires warning shots in encounter with Iranian boats

US ship fires warning shots in encounter with Iranian boats

A Palestinian protester does a handstand next to a fire which was set on a road during clashes with Israeli police near Damascus Gate just outside Jerusalem's Old City, Sunday, May 9, 2021. Israeli police have been clashing with Palestinian protesters almost nightly in the holy city's worst religious unrest in several years. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Hamas launches new attack on Israel after Jerusalem clashes

Hamas launches new attack on Israel after Jerusalem clashes

Bloc leader Yves-Francois Blanchet holds a news conference before Question Period, Monday, May 10, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
NDP join Liberals to cut short debate, move pandemic election bill forward

NDP join Liberals to cut short debate, move pandemic election bill forward

Specimens to be tested for COVID-19 are seen at LifeLabs after being logged upon receipt at the company's lab, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, March 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Iqaluit elders home evacuated after staff member tests positive for COVID-19

Iqaluit elders home evacuated after staff member tests positive for COVID-19

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh listens to a question as he speaks with reporters on Parliament Hill, Wednesday, May 5, 2021 in Ottawa. Singh says he believes there's a connection between anti-mask and anti-lockdown protests and far-right extremism. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Pandemic of hate’: Leaders, experts warn anti-lockdown protests linked to far right

‘Pandemic of hate’: Leaders, experts warn anti-lockdown protests linked to far right

Most Read