For the first time ever, the Hay River Reserve has played host to the Mackenzie Youth Summer Games.
The event, which was held over three days from July 5 to 7, attracted 63 participants from several communities.
The games for children aged eight to 14 years were organized by Sharon Pekok, the recreation director with K’atlodeeche First Nation.
“My role was just to get everything organized, to organize the whole thing,” she said.
Pekok said the Hay River Reserve had not previously hosted the games because KFN had not had a recreation director for a while, and it’s usually a recreation director that’s involved in the event.
The Mackenzie Recreation Association had asked if the First Nation was willing to host the event.
“When I went to the meeting this spring, they wanted to know if we were willing to take this on,” said Pekok. “It usually stays two years in a community, unless a community says no to the second year, and then it moves on. It came to us from Simpson. Simpson had it for the last two years.”
The Mackenzie Recreation Association is made up of 19 communities in the Deh Cho, South Slave and North Slave regions, except Yellowknife.
Pekok said the participants and chaperones came from Fort Liard, which had the highest number of youngsters at 29, along with Fort Providence, Trout Lake, Wrigley and one KFN member from Hay River.
There were also two facilitators from Fort Smith, one from Yellowknife and one from Fort Simpson.
The Mackenzie Youth Summer Games feature numerous activities – basketball, Dene games, soccer, swimming, hiking, handgames, floor hockey and more.
Pekok called it a mixture of culture and sports.
“It’s nice to have the cultural aspect in it because then you’re teaching the youth stuff, as well,” she said. “But also part of it is for them to interact with the youth that are not in the community to get to know other people and visit and make new connections and friends. So I think that’s another part of it that’s important.”
Pekok said it is not a competitive event.
“It’s more of getting kids together and becoming involved in the different activities,” she said.
Although no final decision has been made, Pekok said it is possible that the Mackenzie Youth Summer Games will be returning to the Hay River Reserve.
“Next year we’ll probably have it back again,” she said. “It was a learning lesson for us of how much work goes into it.”
Jessica VanOverbeek, the executive director of the Mackenzie Recreation Association in Yellowknife, is hopeful the games will return to the reserve.
“Well, it looked like a lot of fun, so I would love for it to be there,” she said. “They have great facilities. They have great volunteers. Sharon is so wonderful to work with.”
The Mackenzie Recreation Association was “super excited” to have the games hosted by KFN, said VanOverbeek. “They have a great area to host it.”
The participants stayed at the Jim Lamalice Wilderness Lodge and the various activities were held at Chief Sunrise Education Centre, the Chief Lamalice Complex, the arbour and elsewhere.
VanOverbeek said the summer camp is designed to promote physical activity and water safety.
– Paul Bickford