Nearly two dozen young athletes from Hay River will be travelling to Regina later this month to take part in the North American Indigenous Games, where they will meet and test themselves against aboriginal athletes from all over the continent.
“It’s going to be a great opportunity for them to learn about other aboriginal cultures and connect with people from all over Canada and the States,” said team manager Lorraine McDonald. “I’m stoked about going to see a pow wow too.”
For some of the athletes, representing Team NWT at international events is nothing new. Tyrell Wilgosh, headed to the games for fast-pitch softball, has been to the Arctic Winter Games for hockey in the past, but said he’s still excited to be representing his town and territory at the NAIGs.
“It’ll be my first time at a big international competition for softball,” he said. “I’m looking forward to doing a different sport at that level.”
For others, this will be their very first time wearing team jackets to international events. While there were some nerves evident at the Don Stewart Recreation Centre last week when the athletes came to pick up their gear, most said they were looking forward to the experience. Tristan Cross, who is going to Regina for badminton, said that while he’s proud to be representing the NWT, he is most looking forward to other aspects of the games.
“I heard the opening ceremony is pretty big and exciting,” he said. “So I guess it’ll be cool to be a part of that.”
The NAIGs are held once every four years and aim to promote a healthy lifestyle for indigenous people across North America. While athletes compete in 15 sports, there are also cultural performances and events throughout the games, including opportunities to showcase language, art, song, dance and ceremonies.
Davida Patterson, also a first-timer for sporting the NWT colours to compete in rifle shooting, said part of the reason she is keen to go is to learn about other cultures.
“I think it’ll be great for the kids to build stronger pride in their own history and culture,” said McDonald. “It’ll give them an opportunity to see aboriginal cultures from all over and hopefully bring some of that pride and tradition back home with them.”
The games take place July 20 to 27.