2017 North American Indigenous Games come to Humber

Published On July 18, 2017 | By HN Staff | News, Sports

The Toronto North American Indigenous Games will feature 5,000 athletes between the ages of 13 to 19 in 14 different sports. (Courtesy: naig2017.to)

By: Alanna Fairey and Matt Hodder

The North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) have kicked off, and Humber College is hosting three different sports.

With 14 sports categories being held within different venues across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), the Toronto NAIG will host more than 5,000 participants and 2,000 volunteers. The bid to host the Games in Toronto this year, led by the Aboriginal Sport & Wellness Council of Ontario and the Mississaugas of New Credit First Nation, received concordant support from the NAIG’s International Governing Body.

Wesley Marsden, the Operations and Communications Coordinator for the Aboriginal Sport & Wellness Council of Ontario, shared that the athletes – aged between 13 and 19 – will benefit from going outside their comfort zone.

“We really made a concentrated effort to get up north and identify these athletes in these remote communities and bring them down,” Marsden said.

“We hope that  when they go home after these games, they can be a positive role model  in their community and steer their peers towards maybe a better path in some cases.”

The sports that will be featured include but are not limited to soccer, badminton and softball. Humber College will host the events for basketball, volleyball and golf.

The teams are all competing under the theme “Team 88.” The number comes from The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Call to Action, which implores all levels of government to ensure that long-term Indigenous athlete growth and development through the NAIG continue to be supported. Team 88 is meant to recognize sports as a path to reconciliation, as well as positively impact the wellness of the Indigenous community.

David Lafontaine, coach for British Columbia’s U16 Basketball team, says recognizing the TRC recommendations is important.

“We’ve talked about number 88 on the Truth and Reconciliation Recommendations and I think this is what it’s about,” said Lafontaine, who is Metis from Saskatchewan. “Our government supporting sport and young people, and young people having a ton of fun at this event.”

Kalem Wilson, one of the players on the B.C. U16 Basketball team, told Humber News that the event provided both a sense of community, as well as a welcome change of scenery.

The games “get all the kids together, the native kids,” said Wilson of the Jitxsan Nation. “It’s really fun too, to get out of your town every once in a while.”

Marsden said he noticed a great deal of negativity in the media surrounding Indigenous issues, citing the violence against Indigenous people coming out of Thunder Bay and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. He hopes that The Toronto NAIG 2017 will change that perspective.

“It seems like the news is dominated by negative stories,” said Marsden. “I think the next week and a half is a nice opportunity to hear about some of the good stories and good opportunities that happen with our youth.”

As of July 17, Ontario has three medals – one gold and two silvers. Saskatchewan is leading with seven medals, including three gold, one silver and three bronze. However, Marsden hopes that the athletes take away more than just the medals.

“We just want to make sure that each one of the Team Ontario athletes and their families remembers that NAIG 2017 as a positive and fun lifelong memory for them. I think that’s our main objective,” Marsden said.

The Toronto NAIG will continue until July 23.

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