Beadwork from La Ronge the Lieutenant Governor’s gift to King Charles III

His Majesty King Charles III welcomes Saskatchewan’s Lieutenant Governor, Russ Mirasty, to Buckingham Palace. Photo courtesy of the Office of the Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan.

Shortly after the May 6 Coronation of His Majesty King Charles III, Saskatchewan’s Lieutenant Governor, Russ Mirasty and Her Honour Donna Mirasty had an audience with the King.

It is the practice that each Lieutenant Governor will have an opportunity to meet with the reigning monarch in the first year of their term of office.

Under normal circumstances, Mirasty would have met with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in May of 2020, but COVID and the Queen’s death changed the schedule.

The Lieutenant Governor tells the story of the meeting.

“The actual meeting took place of the 16th of May … We were driven into there [Buckingham Palace]. And then through that first kind of courtyard and then through a second gate into an inner courtyard, where we actually then entered the Palace, where we were met by his staff, given instruction in terms of how the approach would be made. Minutes later we entered an inner room, really nice sitting room, I guess is the best way to describe it. And there he was!

We had a conversation for some time and he, very engaging, wide interest, you know from environmental issues to Indigenous communities and people. [He] was really easy to talk to. He made us feel very comfortable. It was very positive,” Mirasty said in an interview with the Northern Advocate.

For Kathy Lavallee, the news of the visit held some astonishment.

Kathy Lavallee, the creator and beader of the Crest of the Office of the Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan presented to King Charles III. Valerie G. Barnes Connell Jordan/Northern Advocate.

Lt Gov Mirasty is Lavallee’s first cousin and knows she’s an avid beader. He requested a piece of beadwork from her with no particular time frame involved.

“The day that he presented it to King Charles, it was something of a surprise,” Lavaliere said. “That was a really big surprise! … I was just so shocked.”

It is tradition for the visiting Lieutenant Governor to bring a gift of their choosing. With consultation between himself and his wife, Donna, they decided on a beaded replica of the Crest of the Lieutenant Governor’s Office.

“By design [it] was designed by someone that’s close to us, and we thought this would be a very appropriate gift. It represents Saskatchewan, but it also represents Indigenous people and we’ve always tried, throughout our term, to bring part of who we are into this Office,” Mirasty said, of their choice of gift for King Charles.

The beaded Crest of the Office of the Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan, Lt. Gov. Russ Mirasty and Her Honoour, Donna Mirasty gifted His Majesty King Charles III on the occasion of their visit. Photo by Kathy Lavallee.

Mirasty said, after the visit, he and his wife reflected as they left Buckingham Palace.

“How is it that two northerners from small communities in northern Saskatchewan end up here? And it was a moment to pause and think about that. Our own journey now, we connected northern Saskatchewan to Buckingham Palace.”

Mirasty is a member of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band (LLRIB) and Her Honour Donna Mirasty is from Cumberland House, Saskatchewan’s oldest settlement.

The Vice Regal couple will also give the people of Saskatchewan a feel for who this person is that is now King.

And of the Royal Family, “At the end of the day, they’re just people,” Mirasty said.

For Lavallee, she picked up the beading needle at the Piwapan Women’s Centre Little Kohkum’s Club 10 or 11 years ago and has never put it down.

It has been a  significant part of her healing over the years. She is very intentional when she beads.

She has a place set aside, which she smudges with sage, to make sure the atmosphere and space is clear and clean before picking up her beading needle.

She makes sure she is in a good frame of mind, not angry or sad, so that her feelings will not go into the creation she is designing and making at the time.

“I feel really honoured,” she said, on learning her beadwork had been gifted to King Charles in London.

“I love beading for folks and just seeing the joy that they get out of a piece. I really take pride in my work.”

Lavallee also said another realization about the gift, “They support small business, right?”

Over the years her beadwork also provided income for her family.

She does acknowledge there has been some controversy over the gift in the light of colonization and the Residential School System.

“We’re in the times we have Truth and Reconciliation.”

As a Survivor herself, she understand the feelings about Residential Schools.

“I am a survivor myself, but it’s not something we’re going to ever forget, but also there’s Truth and Reconciliation, right?”

Lavallee has gone into the schools and culture camps to share her skills and love of beading. She just graduated from Mental Health and Wellness, which offers her the opportunity to become an addictions or school counsellor, but, her beading will never be far away.

“It was a good coping skill and kept me busy and taught me mindfulness, patience, so that could be also part of therapeutic when you’re counselling,” she said.