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Upcoming powwow on former Mission residential school grounds 'Reclaiming Youth'

Three-day contest powwow will feature food trucks, feast and over 70 vendors
VYPER's third annual 'Reclaiming Youth' powwow returns to Mission this weekend (July 12-14).

For the third consecutive year, a Fraser Valley youth group will host a powwow on the grounds of the former St. Mary's Residential School in Mission. 

The event is organized by VYPER (Visionary Youth Peers for Equity and Revitalization), an Abbotsford-based youth group comprised of Indigenous youth. It's set to begin on Friday evening (July 12) and run through Sunday (July 14). 

A former VYPER lead coined the name for the powwow:  “Reclaiming Youth”. 

VYPER leader Marcella Sunshine says the name focuses on the concept of reclaiming Indigenous youth, especially because it’s hosted at one of the last residential schools closed in B.C. 

“That's heavy. There's not really any nice way to talk about that. The seriousness to it needs to be discussed, and we need to really acknowledge that work and being there on those grounds – it's sacred,” Sunshine said. 

Sunshine says the name is about reclaiming Indigenous youth brought into the world today, as well as reclaiming the Indigenous youth who were at St. Mary’s and reclaiming the Indigenous youth in themselves. 

After hosting a traditional powwow for the past two years, this year's version will be a competition powwow. 

Dancers will be competing for first through third in respective categories and judged throughout each day. The winners of the contest will be announced on Sunday (Jul 14) at approximately 5 p.m.

“Our main reason for hosting a contest powwow is we just want to put a little bit more money into the pockets of the families who travel far and wide to come. For us, there's still the element of healing and there's still an element of dancing for the people. That's what makes our powwow important to us – that's why we do it,” Sunshine said.  

VYPER has spent the last year fundraising and applying for grants, yielding an $85,000 total going back into the Indigenous community through the dance contests. 

“We are expecting a lot more dancers this year because we have put in a lot of effort to get some funding for specials and bringing out lots of dancers,” Sunshine said. 

The funding also supports a traditional feast at 5 p.m. on Saturday of elk stew and “Indian tacos”. 

The event is expected to have over 2500  spectators per day, and 400 Indigenous dancers of all ages competing for prizes. 

“I'm hoping anyone who comes to our powwow knows that when they're with us, they’re family and we want to feed them and we want to take care of them,” Sunshine said. 

A princess pageant for girls aged seven to 17 years and a little warrior contest for boys aged one to six years old will take also place on Sunday.  Seven food trucks will be on-site, in addition to 70 vendors. 

Sunshine says the event is free and everyone is welcome. 

Dillon White

About the Author: Dillon White

I joined the Mission Record in November of 2022 after moving to B.C. from Nova Scotia earlier in the year.
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