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Rugby 7s gold medal features Musqueam Nation’s ‘spirit of resilience’

Aleen Sparrow designed this year’s gold medal
Rugby Sevens in Vancouver gold medal, designed by Musqueam artist Aleen Sparrow. (Handout photo)

By Radha Agarwal

Those who take gold at this year’s Rugby Sevens in Vancouver will be dawning a special gold piece of Musqueam First Nations culture.

As part of its long-standing partnership with the three host nations of Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh, this year’s gold medal was designed by Aleen Sparrow.

By integrating Salish traditions, the medal “embodies the spirit of resilience and connection to nature deeply rooted in Aleen’s Musquem culture,” depicting the mountains and symbolizing the endurance of the Musqueam people, according to a news release.

“It’s very important for us to get our young artists recognized. It is their opportunity to participate in a world-class event like this,” Chief Wayne Sparrow told Black Press Media.

“Such world events are a great opportunity to cover some history of the lands the players are playing on…to tell the visitor and guests about our cultural history.”

Canada Sevens is a three-day international rugby tournament hosted February 23-25 at BC Place. It will bring 24 teams from across the world together for World Rugby Seven Series ranking points.

The event also draws attention to artistic endeavours of other Indigenous artists, like Debra Sparrow, who’s Salish textile weaving will be featured in the light display of BC Place.

“In the past we’ve had teams from Fiji and New Zealand come into our community and teach kids. Its not just about rugby, but also their cultures, as they also have their own indigenous communities,” Sparrow said. “I think our community looks forward to that more than the games itself because the athletes engage with the us directly.”

It will also be the first Sevens in Vancouver to display on its centreboard—the historic host city’s name in all three languages– hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ (Halkomelem), sqʷχʷoʔməʃ snit͡ʃim (Squamish) and English.

“Such partnerships come under the umbrella of reconciliation, to bring us together while welcoming world events.”