Iris Caye was born and raised on Flathead Indian Reservation to parents Agnes Couture Caye and Abraham Caye, and her life has been a mix of adventurous journeys and growing deep roots in her community. Her grandmother taught Iris to sew when she was just eight years old. As she grew older, Iris wasn’t afraid to learn something new.
From living on a barge on the Bering Sea for months at a time processing king crab, to learning to build traditional Kootenai sturgeon nose canoes, to trapping beaver, hunting, and fishing, she’s had her share of adventures. Even though she’s retired now, she still sews. For Iris, sewing is an opportunity to combine her natural eye for design with her perfectionist nature. Those early lessons from her grandmother, who also valued precision, still show in the meticulous stitching of each shirt, skirt, or dress that Iris produces. Her attention to detail has brought recognition from those around her. Over the last fifty years, she’s become a fixture in her community. People come to Iris when they need new pieces to dance in. Her creations have been worn at powwows and gatherings around the country, and she’s looking forward to making more. For now, though, she’s focused on how a different kind of garment—a mask—can help her stay true to her upbringing. Iris was taught to respect and protect her elders, and she knows a mask can make the difference in this fight against an invisible enemy.