APTN National News
The sound of beating drums welcomed people as they entered Oppenheimer park in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside Saturday.
It’s one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods and widely known for poverty, homelessness and drug use.
But it’s also a vibrant community of families and they came to celebrate their culture at the annual Downtown Eastside powwow.
This year’s event was dedicated to honouring children.
“A lot of the kids that live down here – what they see on a day-to-day basis – they see a lot of hardship, they see a lot of people living with addictions,” said organizer Kat Norris.
“We use the powwow culture to showcase the pride in Indigenous artistry, culture and spirituality.”
Patrick Smith has been living in Downtown Eastside for 30 years and helped create the event.
“What I was taught is that children are always at the centre, they are embraced by their community,” said Smith. “We nurture them and support them to grow up and be resilient and strong people.”
Many of the kids are exposed to hard lessons of life in the community.
“My step-mom died from fentanyl,” said Miles Robinson from George Gordon First Nation. “I’m here for everyone that does drugs and alcohol just so they can find the right path.”
Vancouver’s fentanyl crisis has his the community hard. There have been 232 suspected overdose deaths so far this year.
Despite the hardship the community continues to strive.
“A lot of people see it with stigma and stuff like that, but I see it as a beautiful, strong, resilient community,” said Smith.
“This has been the bravest community I have ever seen in my life.”