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Indigenous youth group holds powwow at former residential school in Mission, B.C.

Click to play video: 'Exploring Indigenous roots at former residential school' Exploring Indigenous roots at former residential school
Dozens of young people are spending the long weekend in Mission at the site of the last residential school to be closed in B.C. As Julia Foy reports, the youth group working to overcome addictions is exploring their Indigenous roots while resurrecting a tradition last held decades ago – Jul 2, 2022

An Indigenous youth group held its first-ever powwow at a former residential school in Mission, B.C.

People from across the province descended on the site of the former St. Mary’s Residential School.

“Every child that touches the ground blesses (it here) because every child matters,” Indigenous Elder Malihatawa Gherrien said.

Read more: Halifax Kana’ta Day celebrations rooted in inclusivity, awareness

The youth group, Valley Youth Peers for Overdose Response, or VYPOR, is a youth-led peer group for current or past drug users in the Fraser Region Area.

They are based out of Mission Community Service Society’s Youth & Emergency Shelters, a team of youth peers that oversee multiple youth and adult overdose prevention sites.

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“These are urbanized Indigenous youth who have tons of experience with substance abuse and the foster care system,” Marcella Pruden said, one of the organizers.

“(They also understand) the complete side-effects of residential schools, of  intergenerational trauma.”

Read more: Thousands gather in Victoria Park for Turtle Island Healing Walk in London, Ont.

Hundreds of people attended the powwow and organizers said the reception from the community has been strong.

“We’re bringing this powwow back to these sacred grounds here so we can bring people together and have some reconciliation,” Trevor Bentley said, a VYPOR peer.

Planners said the three-day event celebrates the Indigenous community.

The powwow has been cancelled for Sunday due to rain but organizers hope it’s the beginning of a new tradition.

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