Dreamcatcher Foundation now funds teams, not players

SIX NATIONS—There was a time when the zhooniyaa (money) flowed for the asking from the Dreamcatcher Charitable Foundation when local Native hockey teams began their annual fundraising programs for the Little Native Hockey League (Little NHL) tournament, some estimates place that outlay at as much as $400,000 annually. But over the past couple of years, limits began to appear on the amount for which teams could apply.

First the limits were set at $250 a player, to defray the cost of hotel rooms and other expenses. Then word came that the fund would no longer be subsidizing the accommodations or expenses of individual players. An “important notice” on the Little NHL website reads: “The Dreamcatcher Fund has been a proud supporter of the Little NHL but will not be funding accommodations or individual families or applications for the 2015 Little NHL. Funding is available for the Little NHL registration fee.”

The potential drop in funding is considerable. The fee for the tournament is $550. Set against the $250 per player cap from the last couple of tournaments, that represents a huge impact and it is anticipated the drop will impact attendance, particularly from remote and smaller First Nations reserves.

“That could amount to around a $10,000 hit for some of those reserves,” admitted Whitefish River First Nation Chief Shining Turtle. “If you do the math, before they were providing support of $12,000 to $13,000 for six teams, multiply $550 dollars by six teams and you have $3,300.”

The impact would not have been quite as heavy had there been more notice. The announced changes apparently came late in November 2014. Most small community teams begin their fundraising shortly after the tournament ends each year with bingos, canvassing of local businesses and individual sponsors heating up as the deadline approaches. For many remote reserves, the potential for fundraising is very limited, placing them in a very difficult position even had they been aware of the changes sooner.

The Dreamcatcher Foundation nonetheless remains one of the key sponsors of the Little NHL and has provided countless opportunities for aboriginal youth and First Nations communities in the areas of arts and culture, education, health and sports and recreation. They also provide grants to community involvement projects that have a lasting and positive impact on their members. Its mission is “to build healthy and vibrant aboriginal communities by developing youth as future community leaders.”

Based in the Six Nations territory, the Dreamcatcher Foundation began in 2004 with a $2 million endowment from that community’s biggest employer, Grand River Enterprises. That company’s products include the ubiquitous ‘smokes’ sold on many First Nation territories, but the foundation has actively sought new funding resources, particularly as it expanded to a national level.

Representatives of the Dreamcatcher Foundation were not available for comment by press time Monday.