The opening ceremony for the Toronto 2017 North American Indigenous Games took place on July 16 and marked another milestone for the celebration of Indigenous culture and heritage in North America. The opening parade was held at the Aviva Centre at York University in Toronto and featured Indigenous athletes from the various regions of Turtle Island.
Turtle Island is a reference to North America, based on an Indigenous story of creation. The North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) is the largest gathering of Indigenous people in North America for the purpose of sports and cultural activities.
There are 14 core sports that will be featured during the games and they include: Archery, Athletics, Badminton, Baseball, Canoe, Golf , Lacrosse, Rifle Shooting, Soccer, Softball, Swimming, Wrestling, and Volleyball. There will be 13 participating teams from all the provinces of Canada as well as 13 teams from the United States. The games offer an opportunity for Indigenous youth to showcase their athletic abilities in a series of competitions.
Youth aged 13-19 are eligible to take part in the games. There are expected to be over 5000 participants and over 2000 volunteers for the games. The activities will take place in Toronto and various locations within the GTA, and Six Nations of the Grand River. The games were founded in the early 1970s, but this is the first time in over 25 years that the games will be held in the Eastern Region of Canada.
Lacrosse is one of the 14 sports categories and holds special significance to Indigenous peoples. The game of lacrosse is a traditional game in Indigenous culture. It is often referred to as “The Medicine Game” and it was believed to be a game gifted to the Indigenous peoples by the creator to encourage fun and active movements and the healing of people. The game is often played by the men in Indigenous culture and was used to train warriors and settle tribal disputes. However, the 2017 NAIG will proudly feature the women’s debut of box lacrosse with teams from six provinces in Canada.
The games will also host various cultural events to celebrate Indigenous heritage at York and McMaster University. The cultural festival is a week long celebration ending this weekend and the festival features Indigenous cuisine, craft, and nightly entertainment. All cultural events are free and open to the public. The festival is also a chance to showcase the award winning talents of Indigenous performers.
The games support Indigenous unity and is a chance to strengthen Indigenous bonds throughout the region. The games run from July 16-23 and will be broadcast via live stream on cbc.ca/sports and the events are free to attend and open to the public. For more information visit NAIG2017.