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Squamish Nation hand out hundreds of pink masks to mark Anti-Bullying Awareness Day

The pink masks share a Squamish Nation word – Ayátnewasyap, which means “be kind to one another.”

Squamish Nation has swapped pink shirts for pink masks to mark Canada’s Anti-Bullying Awareness Day.

To raise awareness of the CKNW Kids’ Fund annual Pink Shirt Day (Feb. 24) the nation’s Ta7lnew̓ás Education, Employment, and Training team decided to do things a little differently this year, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, handing out 200 pink masks to students to wear to take a stance against bullying. 

Staff within the nation’s other offices also got involved – with a total of 600 pink masks handed out throughout the nation's North Vancouver and Squamish communities.

The pink masks share a Squamish Nation word – Ayátnewasyap, which means "be kind to one another."

Syetáxtn, Chris Lewis, a spokesperson for the nation, said the pink mask initiative was all about spreading the message of Ayátnewasyap throughout the community.

“We thought it was really innovative from our team and our staff and a really creative way to get the message out there, especially in unprecedented times where we need to be kinder to one another, now more than ever,” he said.

“Everybody has to wear a mask and it's just an alternate way to continue to pass the message around about anti-bullying and make it visible.”

Lewis said another message the nation taught the community’s young people and children was to “treat people the way you want to be treated.”

“In our language, we call it wena’xws, which means you’re treating somebody with respect, you're believing what they say, and you’re honouring them,” he said.

“It’s the complete opposite of bullying and being aggressive.

“That's who we are as Sḵwx̱wú7mesh people and we really try to kind of embody that in terms of teaching our young children and reminding our people that we need to be kinder to one another and we need to support one another, especially during a pandemic.”

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Posted by Squamish Nation on Wednesday, February 24, 2021

He said he hoped the pink masks would be a visible reminder to not only the nation but to the wider community to be kind and humble to one another and to treat people with respect.

“Bullying doesn't have a space in our world,” said Lewis.

This Pink Shirt Day, the CKNW Kids’ Fund is calling on British Columbians to “lift each other up” and support programs that encourage healthy self-esteem and teach empathy, compassion, and kindness.

They encourage everyone to practise kindness and wear pink today (Feb. 24) to symbolize that you do not tolerate bullying. 

Since 2008, net proceeds of over $2.55 million have been distributed to support youth anti-bullying programs in B.C. and throughout Western Canada. Last year alone, CKNW Kids’ Fund was able to support programs that impacted more than 59,000 youth and children.

Get involved: purchase official Pink Shirt Day merchandise and support anti-bullying initiatives in B.C. at CKNW Kids’ Fund Pink Shirt Day.

Elisia Seeber is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.