AWG working on including smaller communities in international event

photo courtesy of the 2018 South Slave Arctic Winter Games Host Society
Members of the International Committee of the Arctic Winter Games and chefs de mission of teams coming to 2018 games participate in a drum dance at the Chief Lamalice Complex during a tour of the Hay River Reserve on March 18.

It’s called the 2018 South Slave Arctic Winter Games, and organizers are still working out how to include all communities in the region in the international event.

Apart from the two host communities of Hay River and Fort Smith, only the Hay River Reserve is going to host any athletic competitions – Dene games and dog mushing.

No other smaller communities in the South Slave will likely host sports.

“At this time, it doesn’t look like it,” said Greg Rowe, president of the host society of the 2018 Arctic Winter Games. “We had originally listed Fort Providence as possibly doing some Dene games there and then also we listed Fort Resolution as doing the satellite competition for dog sledding.”

However, the territorial sports organizations for those sports recommended against that idea.

The organizers had also considered using arenas in Fort Providence and Fort Resolution for practice facilities.

However, because of the distance from Hay River and some other concerns raised by the International Committee of the Arctic Winter Games, that won’t be happening, said Rowe. “We probably won’t be able to utilize the satellite venues as we talked about for hockey.”

The International Committee is concerned about the distances to the other communities.

The host society is now looking at involving the other communities through cultural events.

“What we want to do is we want to get back to the communities and check and see where and what we can possibly do,” said Rowe. “At this point in time, it’s more likely going to be cultural events and whatnot. But that’s not cast in stone yet. We have to finalize that stuff, but that’s what it’s looking like.”

All the contingents coming to the games include cultural performers.

“So one of the things that we want to try and do is meet with the communities to see how they can be more involved, but on the cultural side of it, which is a huge part of the games,” said Rowe. “It’s not just the sport, it’s also the cultural side. And that’s what we want to look at with the communities outside of Fort Smith, Hay River and K’atlodeeche.”

Rowe said it’s not simply as easy as saying that a certain sport should be held in a smaller community away from Hay River or Fort Smith.

“We’re going to be taxed as an organization and host society to fulfil our requirements,” he said. “Just to do one day of racing in Fort Res you’re doubling all your work.”

That work for dog racing, for example, would involve preparing the trails, ensuring the proper timing devices are available and much more.

Rowe said the South Slave bid for the Arctic Winter Games was clearly identified from the beginning as a regional bid that could get the event back to the grassroots.

“And we’re quite excited to be able to partner with all of the communities,” he said.

Rowe said the games will still include Fort Providence, Kakisa, Enterprise and Fort Resolution.

“So we certainly are in the process of working with them,” he said.

For example, when the International Committee of the Arctic Winter Games and chefs de mission for the upcoming games were bussed to Hay River from Yellowknife on March 17, they stopped in Fort Providence for a sweet grass ceremony.

In Fort Providence, the AWG’s chair of table tennis, who lives in the community, made a presentation to the visiting group.

Rowe also noted that some family members travelling to the games might even stay at the motel in Enterprise or even in Fort Providence.

The host society president also hopes people from the smaller communities will volunteer to help with the games.

Rowe predicted the Hay River Reserve will do a great job hosting the Dene games and dog mushing, noting it has successfully hosted K’amba Carnival for more than 30 years.

Plus, he said Chief Sunrise Education Centre will be used to accommodate some athletes.

And it is hoped that the Dene Cultural Centre will be available for some cultural events.

Peter Groenen, chief executive officer of K’atlodeeche First Nation, said it will be a positive for the reserve to host some competitions and the people are “absolutely” excited to be part of the event.

“It will get exposure for the reserve,” he said. “People will be coming to watch those games, of course, and people will be able to see our community, which is good. The good news is it’s in March so the ice crossing will still be open, so easy access. Hopefully, we’ll see people come over.”

Groenen said plans haven’t been finalized on what cultural events will be presented on the reserve.

The CEO said the people can be proud that they’ll be involved in putting on a big, world-class event like the Arctic Winter Games.

“So to be able to participate in that is a real honour,” he said.

The dog races will be held on the Hay River, just like for K’amba Carnival.

“So that would be good,” said Groenen. “It’s a good venue because there’s lots of room for spectators and we could probably plow some extra spots open for spectators further up.”

–Paul Bickford