TORONTO – Over 5,000 athletes from unique and diverse indigenous backgrounds from across North America have travelled to compete in the 2017 North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) to represent their respective nations, tribes and peoples. And with their attendance came the opening ceremonies on Sunday, July 16 at the Aviva Centre.
Greetings and welcome speeches by Chief Ava Hill, Chief Stacey LaForme, a representative of the Wyandot and the Metis each gave the athletes a sense of unity in competition. Performances by Taboo, Santee Smith and the Kaha:wi Dancers, a Tribe Called Red and more also graced the stage before eyes of youth that will carry their people into the future.
But although the ceremony itself was postponed for two hours and the parade of athletes and pep-rallies were cancelled, the opening ceremonies raged on to welcome athletes, families, friends and spectators with an event that will be remembered for decades.
This year in particular has tied NAIG to something much more purposeful than meets the eye.
The NAIG committee wanted to make the event an integral part of reconciliation by making the theme Team 88. This theme represents a direct tie to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 88th Call to Action – which directs Canada to support indigenous sports.
Indigenous sports are pieces that hold familial, cultural and social connection for indigenous people. Athleticism and competition also run deep within indigenous people, and the games help to promote healthy competition and active living.
With over 10,000 Team 88 flags waving in the stands, it was easy to see that the theme of this year’s NAIG is both an “in your face” and a beautiful showcase of indigenous involvement and contribution to sport across North America.