World Indigenous Nations Games coming to Edmonton this summer
City's track record of supporting international sporting events make for a natural fit, say organizers.
By SCOTT LINGLEY
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The 2017 World Indigenous Nations Games are coming to Edmonton this summer.
Representatives from Indigenous groups in Western Canada and from Brazil, Ethiopia, Panama, New Zealand, Russia and the United States signed a declaration of intent at a summit on the Enoch Cree Nation west of Edmonton to bring the games to Canada from July 2-9 at various venues in and around the city.
Treaty 6 Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild, who chaired the summit, has been a strong proponent of an international Indigenous games for more than three decades. He said the Edmonton region is a natural choice as a venue for the first North American edition of the games as it has a history of hosting very successful international games like the Commonwealth Games, the Universiade and the World Track and Field Championships.
In addition to connecting Indigenous peoples across international lines, he said events like the World Indigenous Nations Games serve an important purpose for First Nations, Métis and Inuit people at home.
“It’s very important to our own people, especially our youth, to try to re-engage with our identity, our culture, our traditions, and sometimes the medium of sport is the easiest way to do it.”
The university will be supporting the event by providing facilities for it.
Littlechild said that as a U of A alumnus and former varsity athlete, it was meaningful to him to reach out to the university for expertise and support in bringing the event to fruition.
“The tradition of the U of A not only in sport, but the traditions I grew up with as a student there, I’ve tried to hold up highly through my own personal career and development, so having the university’s involvement in the World Indigenous Nations Games brings all that full circle,” he said.
Deputy Provost Wendy Rodgers said the university is honoured to provide support for the event as the pieces fall into place in the coming months.
“We hope our commitment to strengthening ties with Indigenous communities and our tradition of athletic excellence will enable us to contribute to the success of the games,” she said.
The inaugural World Indigenous Nations Games took place in 2015 in Palmas, Brazil, attracting more than 2,000 participants from 23 countries for competitive and cultural activities. Canada sent a 53-member delegation comprising representatives from Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Ontario.
Littlechild not only led the Canadian delegation, but also competed in the river swimming race as a 71 year-old, claiming a gold medal in his age group. Though he expects to be very busy in the coming months, he won’t rule out participating in the upcoming games.
“I do want to focus on the organizing part of it, but I also believe you should practise what you preach—I want to encourage my own people to get involved with physical activity as well,” he said.
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