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Squamish Nation hand delivers hundreds of Christmas hampers

Holiday spirit was in abundance this week as the Nation packed and hand delivered Christmas dinner packages to the community

It was like a scene from Santa’s workshop on Tuesday afternoon at the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) Chief Joe Mathias Centre.

Before the bright festive display that decorated the hall lay a sea of bags overflowing with Christmas fare. Volunteers, like little elves, ferried the goods to and fro from delivery trucks.

For the past four years the Nation has been delivering Christmas hampers to the community. 

A charitable venture that was spurred on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the initiative has grown since then to become a vital part of the Nation's festivities, said food co-ordinator Tannis Louie. This year was it's largest yet, she added, with 900 bags gifted, 700 delivered door-to-door to families in North Vancouver and Squamish, and 200 waiting for pick up. 

Carrots, potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce and turkey, the parcels contain all the fixings for a yuletide meal with all the trimmings. Breakfast for Boxing Day is in the bag too, with pancake mix, syrup, peanut butter and jam joined by inclusions of tea and coffee. There's even dish soap, to clean the pots.

“Fresh produce right now is so high, turkeys are expensive, people are so grateful that they still get to have a full family dinner,” said Louie. “Normally families like to sit down and feast, and we all like to sit down as a community. If we can’t make it door-to-door to sit down and have a meal with everyone, this is a way that the Squamish Nation can spend Christmas with everybody.”

Louie said the Nation orders food through the same vendors annually – the dry goods and produce comes from Kin’s Farm Market and Safeway – and “great relationships” have been built with the local supermarkets and grocers over the years. 

“We have some pretty amazing vendors that help us out, they’ve been very, very good to us and very loyal and wonderful," she said. "They go above and beyond, no matter what we ask for. They are so accommodating.”

The same goes for the countless volunteers who offer their hand packing and delivering the festive packages, she said, adding how the event is a collaborative effort from all Squamish Nation departments, particularly the council and Ayás Mén̓men Child & Family Services.

The West Vancouver Police Department's Integrated First Nations Unit, a team created specifically to focus on providing policing services that are culturally sensitive and responsive to the First Nations, also offer a helping hand annually. 

“We couldn’t do it without everybody coming in together. The connections we make on these days stays with us forever,” said Louie. "Being able to do this lifts our own hearts and spreads holiday cheer all around us."

Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

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