GARDEN RIVER FIRST NATION—On Sunday, December 7, 10 youth volleyball players from Wikwemikong made their way to the Garden River First Nation Recreation Centre. They arrived at the 9 am Central Ontario Volleyball tryouts, amidst countless others, in hopes of representing Team Ontario at the North American Indigenous Games this coming summer.
Although the tryouts began over an hour late—the coaches and managers that were to be assessing the players were delayed in a blizzard in Upper Michigan as they were travelling from Whitefish Bay in Northern Ontario—the youth stayed on task warming up and running drills while waiting. With the safe arrival of three members of the coaching staff the competition was on to show excellence, teamwork and athleticism in the sport of volleyball.
The dream of the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) began in the 1970s. It was proposed to the Assembly of the World Council of Indigenous People in 1977 by Willie Littlechild of the Ermineskin First Nation, Alberta and Big John Fletcher of the Peigan First Nation, Alberta, and was accepted with unanimous approval. The hopes of having such games were that young aboriginals from across North America would come together to excel in their athletic field but also to come together to make new friendships, to renew old ones, to learn and share each other’s culture, and so on. The first Indigenous Games was held in Edmonton in 1990. The eighth NAIG will be held from July 20 to 27, 2014 in Regina.
Aboriginal Team Ontario is currently holding tryouts and taking names of potentials athletes in varying sports. If they have a high interest in a sport in a particular area of Ontario they will try to accommodate tryout locations, usually hosting one tryout per area: Northern Ontario, central Ontario and southern Ontario. Several sports have hosted tryouts already with youth from Manitoulin hoping for a spot on the archery and softball teams. Aboriginal Team Ontario has put a call out to all athletes born from 1995 to 2001 (13 years to 19 years). For more information please visit http://aswco.businesscatalyst.com/NAIG-2014 or on Facebook under ‘Aboriginal Team Ontario.’
After a fun and entertaining game of volleyball, players and families welcomed the arrival of Volleyball Sport Manager Ryan White, who had weathered the storm and the unfortunate two-hour line at the International Bridge to meet with the potential athletes, to answer questions and to give an idea of the team they are hoping to build. Although the Aboriginal Team Ontario volleyball players have not been drafted just yet, with one more pending tryout still on the horizon, the youth that were present relished in the experience already creating new bonds and making new friends in an athletic setting.
The Wikwemikong hopefuls had nothing but good experiences that snowy and cold Sunday and look forward to good news in the New Year, that they will be given the opportunity to represent their family, their community, their people, and their province this July at the 2014 North American Indigenous Games.
Lisa Marie Lavallee