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Celebration of Indigenous arts and culture at Tsleil-Waututh Nation Christmas fair

The annual festive market, running Dec. 2-3, brings together 80 vendors from across the Lower Mainland
The Tsleil-Waututh Nation’s Christmas Craft Fair takes place annually at the Nation’s community centre in North Vancouver. | Tsleil-Waututh Nation

Often, the thought of shopping during the holiday season conjures a mental image of sheer bedlam, of long queues and sweaty crowds and people batting each other out of the way with oversized rolls of wrapping paper.

But what if we were to tell you that Christmas shopping doesn’t have to be stressful. In fact, it can be fun, relaxed and, in the case of the upcoming Tsleil-Waututh Christmas Craft Fair, even a place for cultural connection.

The annual event, running Dec. 2-3, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Nation’s community centre on Sleil Waututh Rd, brings together more than 80 vendors from across the Lower Mainland.

While there are stall owners from all backgrounds selling all manner of wares, from homeware to crafts, there is particular celebration of Indigenous arts and culture, said the event’s organizer, səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh Nation) Chief Jen Thomas.

“We have a variety of vendors from different Nations across B.C. that will be selling a range of cultural items,” she said.

Guests can expect to see stalls championing sweetgrass, an aromatic herb often used as a smudge in herbal medicine or during healing and talking circles, traditional fare like bannock, and handmade artworks. Alongside them will be all the usual suspects, stores with festive wares and homeware, crafts and other alluring tchotchkes.

Thomas, who has been running the Christmas craft fair since it first began 21 years ago, said this is the largest the market has ever been. There are 15 newcomers this year and numerous others are still vying for a table from the waitlist.

“It’s been hard for me to squeeze them all in,” she said with a laugh.

There’s also plenty of free stuff up for grabs, with tickets for door prizes given automatically to anyone who purchases something from a vendor. The prizes? Anything from a 65-inch television to two new paddleboards, said Thomas.

With all funds raised from the event put towards the Nation’s annual baby celebration, a ceremony held each March that welcomes the newborns into the community, Thomas said the festival offers multiple ways to support local Indigenous culture and community. 

"I recommend people just come and enjoy the atmosphere of so many different people, and so many different cultures, coming together," she said. 

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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