A report back from the North American Indigenous Games

By David Sharpe

I journeyed many hours to see our Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte (MBQ) athletes compete at the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) from July 15-23. Although historic levels of flooding in the Halifax/Dartmouth area caused the cancellation of the Closing Ceremony and the concert that was to be headlined by the Snotty Nose Rez Kids from the Haisla Nation, the games were a brilliant success. The four months worth of rain that fell in one day in the Halifax area could not dampen the spirit of the athletes, coaches, volunteers, trainers and all of the supporters and fans. Calgary, chosen to host NAIG in 2027, will have big mocassins to fill to replicate the Mi’kmaq Nations and Halifax’s success. 

NAIG is a multi-sport event that brings together Indigenous athletes, coaches, Elders and supporters from across Canada and the United States. Every province and territory in Canada was represented. A team even came from as far away as New Mexico. The games greatly exceeded their aim to celebrate Indigenous culture, promote unity and cooperation, and provide a platform for Indigenous youth to showcase their athletic prowess on a regional and international stage.

Caption: The U19 Girls Softball team from New Mexico warming up.

The games were about reconciliation as well. Many non-Indigenous volunteers and fans took part in the events, and the Indigenous knowledge at the Cultural Village was met with great enthusiasm and interest. NAIG incorporates cultural events, ceremonies, and educational programs to promote a deeper understanding of Indigenous traditions and values. The event also promotes the importance of physical activity and healthy lifestyles within Indigenous communities.

The history of NAIG dates back to the 1970s, when various Indigenous communities expressed a desire to organize a sporting event that would not only focus on athletic competition but also emphasize cultural exchange and pride in Indigenous heritage. The games feature a wide range of sports, including both traditional Indigenous games and mainstream sports, such as athletics (track and field), basketball, lacrosse, canoeing, archery, soccer, volleyball, swimming, and more. Traditional Indigenous games are a vital component of the event, as they help preserve and celebrate Indigenous cultural heritage. Participation in the NAIG is open to Indigenous youth between the ages of 13 and 19.

NAIG is truly one of the only events that brings together Indigenous youth from across North America to one meeting spot. The games are more than just athletic competition as it is a springboard for Indigenous youth to share ideas and form lasting bonds across Turtle Island. These are our future Indigenous leaders coming together to share knowledge, experiences and culture. It was a safe environment to be your Indigenous self, free of sideway glances, stares, stereotypes or racism.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was booed at the NAIG Opening Ceremonies. 

The political spirit of Indigenous people was on full display during the Opening Ceremonies when thousands of Indigenous people in attendance loudly booed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when he approached the podium for opening comments. The athletes and Indigenous people at the Scotiabank Arena in Halifax were not placated by the sporting event to forget all of the life and death struggles that Indigenous people face across Turtle Island. To name just a few, lack of clean drinking water, vast overrepresentation in the prison system, Land Back, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, the lasting effects of Residential and Day Schools, genocide… the list goes on and on. You may not agree with the public display of anger by the Indigenous athletes, Elders and supporters, but kudos to them all and to our future leaders to recognize that federal and provincial funding for the games is not an opiate for the Indigenous masses and does not make up for past and current wrongs.  

The journey to Halifax for the thousands of people who participated was well worth the effort. For Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, it was an opportunity to come together with other Haudenosaunee people to renew bonds of friendship and cheer on our athletes. Full disclosure, I was especially motivated to attend to cheer on my 16 year old cousin Rodney Maracle who competed in Athletics in the U19 age group and earned a silver and a bronze in the 400 and 800 metre races, respectively.

Medal list

U16 boys lacrosse gold
– Cam Dejonge

U19 girls soccer silver
– Tala Brant-Berry

U14 girls basketball Gold
– Molly Cook-Martin
– Victoria McCourt
– Tess Shakell
– Marissa Hill
– Valorie Maracle
– Brooklyn Maracle
– coach Jamie McCourt

U14 boys basketball silver
-Quintin Layfield
-Kooper Maracle
-Hayden Lloyd

U19 girls lacrosse silver
-Caroline Markland
-Jaeden Hill

U19 girls basketball silver
-Hannah George
-Evelyn Shakell
-Marlee Maracle
-coach Susan Barberstock
-coach Sara MacNeil

U19 boys track 400 meter silver and 800 meter bronze
-Rodney Maracle

We must continue to always celebrate and promote our youth, our future leaders, and below I list all of our MBQ athletes and coaches:

Gage Barberstock – Basketball, Tala Brant-Berry – Soccer U19 Girls Silver Medal, Molly Cook-Martin – Basketball U14 Girls Gold Medal, Cameron Dejonge – Lacrosse U16 Boys Gold Medal, Carter George – Soccer, Hannah George – Basketball U19 Girls Silver Medal, Jaeden Hill – Lacrosse U19 Girls Silver Medal, Marissa Hill – Basketball U14 Girls Gold Medal, Bailey Jobson – Basketball, Quintin Layfield – Basketball U14 Boys Silver Medal, Hayden Lloyd – Basketball U14 Boys Silver Medal, Brooklyn Maracle – Basketball U14 Girls Gold Medal, Kooper Maracle – Basketball U14 Boys Silver Medal, Marlee Maracle – Basketball U19 Girls Silver Medal, Rodney Maracle – Athletics U19 Boys 400 Metre Silver Medal and 800 Metre Bronze Medal, Valorie Maracle – Basketball U14 Girls Gold Medal, Carolyn Markland – Lacrosse U19 Lacrosse Silver Medal, Jonas McCourt – Athletics, Victoria McCourt – Basketball U14 Girls Gold Medal, Jorja McMullen – Basketball, Evelyn Shakell – Basketball U19 Girls Gold Medal, Tess Shakell – Basketball U14 Girls Silver Medal, Graydon Taylor – Softball, Susan Barberstock – Coach/Manager Basketball U19 Girls Silver Medal, Denise George – Coach/Manager, Sara MacNeil – Coach/Manager Basketball U19 Girls Silver Medal, Camden Maracle – Coach/Manager, James McCourt – Coach/Manager Basketball U14 Girls Gold Medal, Matt Somerville – Coach/Manager, Jennifer Westgate – Coach/Manager. 

Congratulations to you all, we salute you!! See you in Calgary in 2027.

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