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Pro soccer team reveals mascot name

Sp’óq’es and Vancouver FC celebrate the Coast Salish peoples

Ahead of the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, VFC hosted its first annual Indigenous cultures match, and in doing so officially introducing Sp’óq’es (sp-aa-KUS), the club’s eagle mascot.

Vancouver FC acknowledged they work and play on the traditional lands of the Coast Salish peoples, as they continue to learn from, and foster special relationships, with the the q̓ʷɑ:n̓ƛ̓ən̓ (Kwantlen), q̓ic̓əy̓ (Katzie), Máthxwi (Matsqui), and se’mya’me (Semiahmoo) First Nations.

The club has engaged with local Indigenous First Nations since its inception, including seeking guidance when selecting a team mascot.

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The Eagle Spirit is a sacred messenger for Indigenous peoples, including the Kwantlen First Nations, with the ability to fly closest to the creator.

While the eagle mascot was first unveiled at VFC’s home opener in May, it was bestowed the name Sp’óq’es in a traditional naming ceremony on Sept. 14, by Kevin Kelly and Michael Kelly-Gabriel, husband and son (respectively) of Kwantlen First Nation hereditary chief, Marilyn Gabriel.

Sp’óq’es means “eagle” in Halq’eméylem, the language spoken by the people of the Kwantlen, Katzie, Tsawwassen, Kwikwetlem, and Musqueam First Nations.

The ceremony was held at Kwantlen Plaza at the entrance of VFC’s stadium, Willoughby Park, in front of Vancouver players and staff.

“We want people to be curious and ask about Sp’óq’es’ name, we need to help share Indigenous culture and history, we want to spark conversation,” said Stephanie Wood, VFC’s vice-president of marketing and business development.

“It’s important for us to use our platform for real reconcili-ACTION and that must be achieved through collaboration with Indigenous peoples.”

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Vancouver will also recognize National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Saturday, Sept. 30 during its match at Pacific FC. The two clubs, along with the rest of the Canadian Premier League, will mark the occasion by wearing orange shirts during warm-ups and walk outs, in the spirit of healing and reconciliation.

“It is important to everyone at VFC to pay respect to the Indigenous peoples around our home and across the nation,” said Rob Friend, president of Vancouver FC.

“This weekend will be an exciting celebration of Indigenous culture and next weekend we will reflect and continue to be humble listeners with the aim of working together towards reconciliation.”