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As you may know from our previous #YUBlog post, the York University Keele campus was proud to host the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) and house many of the athletes and their families. The Games brought together Indigenous student athletes aged 13 to 19 from across North America to compete in 14 different sports and celebrate Indigenous culture. The Games also featured an Indigenous Marketplace and Cultural Festival where visitors could wander among the tents on YorkU’s sunny sport utility field and purchase arts and crafts, learn about Indigenous heritage or watch musical performances by Indigenous artists.
I went to the North American Indigenous Games with the #YUBlog team last week, and it was an amazing experience. The NAIG organizers describe sport as a unifier, bringing people together to celebrate their shared passion for athletics and to cheer on the inspiring student athletes. Keep reading to learn more about my experience at the Games at YorkU!
The Tait McKenzie Centre, home of the NAIG basketball and volleyball events
NAIG Sports Events on York’s Keele Campus
Four NAIG sporting events— athletics, basketball, volleyball and wrestling— were hosted at YorkU. The athletics competitions were held at the York Lions Stadium; the basketball and volleyball games were held at the Tait McKenzie Centre and wrestling took place at the Toronto Track and Field Centre.
On July 19, I attended the U-16 women’s basketball game between Saskatchewan and Minnesota. It was amazing to see the packed sidelines where crowds of friends and family cheered for their team. As a spectator, I could immediately see and feel the positivity and support these players were receiving, win or lose. All the hard work truly paid off for these incredible athletes as their efforts brought the community together.
NAIG women’s basketball game (U16): Saskatchewan versus Minnesota at the Tait Mckenzie Centre
Visiting the Indigenous Marketplace
After the game, I took a stroll across the YorkU campus to visit the Indigenous Marketplace. The outdoor Marketplace showcased a wide variety of Indigenous arts, such as jewelry, handmade canoes and even a wigwam! The Marketplace created a vibrant atmosphere for cultural exchange, and I enjoyed talking to different vendors about their craftsmanship. It was incredible to see how vendors used different art media to create extraordinary pieces and represent their culture.
A YU Blog team member chooses some beautiful hand-crafted clothing at the Indigenous Marketplace
Speaking to York U’s Centre for Aboriginal Student Services
Representatives from York U’s Centre for Aboriginal Student Services (CASS) had a booth at the Indigenous Marketplace and I went to visit them next.
CASS is a YorkU resource that provides culturally appropriate support to the Indigenous student, staff and faculty community on campus. They provide referrals for on and off-campus academic and personal resources as well as liaise with First Nation communities and Indigenous organizations. CASS also helps students access educational assistance and funding, and promotes awareness about Indigenous culture on campus.
I spoke to Sigifredo Ochoa, a YorkU Student Ambassador and volunteer at the CASS booth in the Marketplace about the Games.
“CASS is a really cool space for Aboriginal students. There’s basically a special space where they can study during the day. It’s a really inclusive space.”
“I think it’s great for York (to host the Games) and… for everyone involved at York. It’s a good way to meet new people and be exposed to different cultures and just open your mind. York is so multicultural, so diverse, and being a part of these events and the fact that students are welcome is pretty cool.”
I also spoke with Randall Pitawanakwat, the Coordinator at the Centre for Aboriginal Student Services, to learn about the importance of NAIG for the Indigenous community.
“The NAIG event includes a strong cultural program celebrating the distinct cultural heritage of Indigenous communities from across North America that will not only benefit the participants but the wider host community as well,” said Randall.
“York students have the opportunity to engage, participate, and join in the celebration of culture through a number of initiatives during the games.”
Sigifredo Ochoa, York Student Ambassador and volunteer, at the CASS booth
What I Learned at the North American Indigenous Games
After a full week of athletics, entertainment and education, the North American Indigenous Games came to an end on Saturday, July 22 with the Closing Ceremonies, which celebrated the achievements of the athletes. The ceremony included cultural performances, speeches from event leaders and a dance party hosted by Much Music.
I learned that the North American Indigenous Games was an important and celebrated event in the Indigenous community. Not only did the Games bring people together, but they gave the Indigenous community from across North America a chance to showcase their heritage, culture, cuisine, and artistic and athletic talents to a wide audience.
Did you attend the North American Indigenous Games? Let us know what you saw by commenting below or by tweeting us at @yorkustudents. For more information about the NAIG events, visit their website.