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Indigenous cultures blend as Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish Nations welcome New Zealand rugby stars

The Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish Nations invited the All Blacks and Black Ferns into their communities for cultural sharing

It was a warm welcome for the New Zealand rugby sevens teams on Tuesday, with both the All Blacks and Black Ferns greeted with joyous song, dance and a cultural showcasing from two local Nations.

As a host Nation of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens, the Tsleil-Waututh Nation had invited the participating teams to come together for a few days of cultural sharing, with the New Zealand All Blacks visiting the Nation at its community centre in North Vancouver on Tuesday.

Each greeted one another through traditional song and dance, before young Tsleil-Waututh Nation members were invited to take to the floor and toss a ball around with the prominent players.

The All Blacks, one of the most famous teams in international rugby, represent the culture of New Zealand and its indigenous Māori people on the sporting stage. The teams are known worldwide for their iconic Haka tradition, a war cry and ceremonial performance that precedes each game.

In a statement, the Tsleil-Waututh Nation said it hoped the hosting of a sporting team of such high calibre would serve as inspiration for its members.

“In addition to sharing their home, stories and culture with these international guests, Tsleil-Waututh is proud to host this prestigious team to inspire our people with their commitment and sportsmanship,” it said.

Tsleil-Waututh Chief Jen Thomas said she was “beyond excited” for the cultural exchange.

“I know that this will be a memorable visit for both Tsleil-Waututh and the New Zealand All Blacks for many years to come,” she said.

On Tuesday the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) also welcomed the Black Ferns, New Zealand’s women’s rugby team and five-time Women’s Rugby World Cup winners.

Initially planned to take place outdoors on the field, a blanket ceremony was instead held at the Capilano Rugby Club's clubhouse in West Vancouver’s Klahanie Park, after the previous day’s extreme weather saw the field filled with snow.

The two cultures came together over ceremonial song, dance and food, all tucking into a vast salmon lunch, before the New Zealand players were shrouded in vivid, traditional Coast Salish blankets.

The Canada Sevens tournament will mark the eighth time that the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series has visited Vancouver, but only the first time both men’s and women’s tournaments will be run concurrently, with two separate cups up for grabs.

The teams will battle it out at BC Place March 3-5.

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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