Pageant winner steps up to help her tribe and winds up shipping masks across North America

These face masks were made by Stormie Perdash, who lives near the Fort Hall Indian Reservation in Idaho. She now has made about 1,000 masks and shipped them to several states and Canada. (Photo courtesy of Stormie Perdash)

Cronkite News is reporting on acts of humanity, sharing the big and small ways people are helping each other in the era of coronavirus.

PHOENIX – As Miss Shoshone-Bannock, Stormie Perdash has represented her people all across the United States. Now, amid the coronavirus pandemic, she’s representing them in a different way.

Stormie Perdash, who holds the title Miss Shoshone-Bannock, poses wearing one of her homemade masks after helping distribute food to those affected by the pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Stormie Perdash)

Growing up on the Fort Hall Reservation in Idaho, Perdash remembers just how badly she wanted the Miss Shoshone-Bannock title – or Miss Sho-Ban for short.

“She was like the coolest thing ever,” Perdash said.

She spent her preteen years on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana and lived in Los Angeles after graduating from high school, and figured her pageant dream was over. But last summer, she returned to Fort Hall for a visit and decided to enter the pageant for 18 to 25 year olds – which she won.

“My first six months were amazing. I went and represented in Hawaii, South Dakota, Los Angeles,” she said in an interview. “Oh, Wisconsin! Also, our local community events – I’ve been here for those as well.

“And then COVID happened.”

Unable to travel and remaining indoors to guard her health, Perdash began making face masks after a tribal representative sought her help.

Despite no formal training, Perdash had sewn for years, mostly traditional dresses and ribbon skirts – which symbolize resilience, survival and sacredness. She’d never sewn face masks until a month ago, when she made 15 and shared them with her 39,000 followers on Instagram and more than 4,000 Twitter followers. She quickly was flooded with questions about selling the masks.

Stormie Perdash shows off a night’s work of making face masks to help those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her sister, Kree Burnett, is mapping all the places to which they’ve shipped masks. (Photo courtesy of Stormie Perdash)

Perdash now has made close to 1,000 face masks and shipped them to Colorado, Texas, California and New York. She has even shipped a few to Canada. The $5 or $10 prices help cover supplies and shipping.

Her sister, Kree Burnett, is creating a map of all the places to which the sisters have shipped.

Perdash’s biggest worry is going to her local Walmart to get supplies. On one shopping trip, all the cotton fabric, interfacing material, elastic and ribbon were sold out. She has now turned to online retailers like to get supplies. She recently paid $25 for expedited shipping so she could continue making and shipping masks to those in need.

“Most of the time, I’m sewing fashion items for people that want them. This time, I’m sewing masks for people that need them,” she said.

“I tend not to think of it as helping others … but it really does. If you’re a beginner seamstress or an advanced seamstress, I encourage you to make masks.”

Health Reporter, Phoenix