OHSWEKEN – According to Six Nations elected chief Ava Hill, the community will be a very busy place this summer with its involvement in the Pan-Am Games, which open this coming July 10th in Toronto and the surrounding area.
Hill also announced several other high profile events that Six Nations will be involved in this summer during a media conference and presentation at the Community Hall in Ohsweken, Saturday afternoon.
After the opening ceremony, District #6 Councillor Mark Hill, who MC’ed the gathering, introduced Chief Hill, who was clearly excited about this summer’s events.
“We were first approached by the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs back in 2011 and asked if we would like to be involved in the Pan-Am games in 2015,” she said. “Now here it is, less than six months away.”
The request was to be a part of what was being called an “Aboriginal Leadership Forum,” along with the Mississaugas of the New Credit, Huron-Wyandot and Metis Nations, as well as several Aboriginal agencies in the Toronto area.
Hill said it was very important that if Six Nations was to be involved, it had to be as more than window dressing, but as a true partner in the event.
“A few years ago, Kevin Sandy and I attended PASO (Pan-Am Sports Organization) annual assembly in Toronto,” Hill told the assembled media and community members. “There were representatives from all 41 countries there, and we were going around doing our networking to promote our community and to try and get people to come to our community when the games are on. We also asked if each country was interested in playing lacrosse. We are keeping that work going and hopefully, one day we will be able to have lacrosse as a sport in the Pan-Am games.”
The event will not only be a great venue for athletes, it will also provide ample opportunity to showcase Onkwehonwe artists, musicians and heritage, as well as through the two Six Nations athletes competing in the games.
Fastball star Carrie-Leigh Thomas will compete as a member of the Canadian National Softball Team, and Cher Obediah hopes to earn a spot on the Canadian National Boxing Team.
But beyond sports, the Games open lots of other opportunities for Six Nations to promote itself and will create jobs and volunteer work to get involved in at the games, as well.
“It’s a really good opportunity to showcase our community,” said Elected Chief Hill.
She explained that during the Games, other Six Nations events would be promoted as well, including the annual Champion of Champions Pow wow, which falls in the middle of the Games. The Planet Indigenous International Festival will also be happening during the games, and the Woodland Cultural Museum will be hosting some of those events.
The Aboriginal Leadership Partners Pavilion at the Games will showcase a number of Six Nations performers and artists. Some 300,000 individuals will compete in 26 Pan-Am sports and 13 Para-Pan-Am sports. In all, 16 municipalities will be involved, plus the Six Nations community.
Some Six Nations families have already benefited from the Pan-Am Games.
“The building and renovations of venues for various sports brought work to many Six Nations Iron Workers and others,” Kevin Sandy added. “We had four gangs from here working on the new soccer stadium in Hamilton and the Milton Velodrome.”
Another Six Nation business – Willie’s World – also won a $250,000 contract.
There will also be a strong Onkwehonwe participation during the event’s opening and closing ceremonies where the Haudenosaunee Creation Story will be told in dance and song.
A Tom Longboat-commissioned work will be unveiled in Toronto to honour what many believe to be the greatest runner of all time. Following the Games, it will be returned to Six Nations for permanent display.
Carrie Leigh Thomas, Cher Obediah and dancer/choreographer Santee Smith also spoke of their involvement in the Games and what it means to be representing their community.
Several booths were set up around the perimeter of the Community Hall with more information about the games and the Six Nations Community’s involvement.
The Pan-Am games begin July 10th, 2015 and will run until July.