B.C. teams look ahead to North American Indigenous Games in Halifax | Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper

B.C. teams look ahead to North American Indigenous Games in Halifax

Nuu-chah-nulth athletes still have opportunities to earn spots to represent British Columbia at this year’s North American Indigenous Games (NAIG).

The multi-sport games, scheduled for July 15-23, will primarily be staged in the Nova Scotia capital of Halifax.

The city of Dartmouth and the Millbrook First Nation will also be hosting some of the competitions.

An estimated 5,000 athletes, aged 13-19, are expected to participate at the NAIG. They will be representing 26 provinces, territories, states or regions throughout Canada and the United States.

Team BC will be represented by 535 athletes and coaches.

Michelle Webster, who will serve as the chef de mission for the B.C. contingent, said the majority of athletes who will represent the province in team sports have already been selected through various tryouts.

Webster said she is unable to give an accurate tally of how many Nuu-chah-nulth athletes have been selected to compete at the NAIG thus far.

She added athletes from across the province, including Nuu-chah-nulth ones, still have chances to be selected for Team BC in various sports that primarily feature individual competition. These sports include wrestling, golf, badminton, canoeing/kayaking, 3D archery, athletics, rifle shooting and swimming.

“They have to submit a time or a score from a selected event,” Webster said.

Webster also realizes that some Nuu-chah-nulth athletes live in remote communities and do not always have the opportunities to attend some sporting events.

Thus, Webster said Team BC reps are willing to closely look at the accomplishments and skill levels of athletes who are unable to attend tryouts or various tournament or meets.

“We’re open to working with athletes if they are having challenges getting to a competition,” she said.

Webster, a member of Namgis First Nation, is currently working as the manager of sport development and community engagement for the Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity & Recreation Council (I-SPARC), the governing body of Indigenous athletics in B.C.

She was named Team BC’s chef de mission for the NAIG last year.

But Webster is no stranger to NAIG competitions. She served as the head coach for the BC girls’ under-19 softball squad that captured the gold medal at the 2014 NAIG staged in Regina.

She was also the head coach for the provincial girls’ under-19 softball club that placed fourth at the 2017 NAIG in Toronto.

The games have not been held since then.

Nova Scotia was originally supposed to host the NAIG in 2020. But those games were postponed for a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And then those games did not happen in 2021 and were postponed indefinitely because of the continuing uncertainty of the pandemic.

Games’ officials are now confident they can deliver the event safely this July.

“You can feel the excitement throughout the province,” Webster said. “We’re grateful to be a part of the process.”

Besides trying to capture some hardware in individual or team action, all NAIG competitors are also attempting to earn some points that will count towards their over-all team score.

BC captured the over-all team title at the 2014 NAIG and then defended its title in 2017.

Team BC also made history in 2014. Not only did it capture the over-all team award, it became the first contingent to win that accolade along with the John Fletcher Spirit Award, for being chosen as the team with the most integrity and sportsmanship.

At the 2017 NAIG, Team BC won a total of 179 medals – 67 gold, 58 silver and 54 bronze.

No doubt having one of the largest contingents at the games helps the efforts of the BC squad.

Webster is unwilling to predict whether the provincial entry will be able to once again finish atop the team standings.

“We are very confident we will do well,” she said. “It’s always nice to win but we want to stress that just the experience of going there is something that is pretty special.

The first NAIG were held in 1990 in Edmonton. The next games were in 1993 in Prince Albert, Sask.

The original plan was to have the games rotate between Canadian and American venues. But they have only been held twice in the U.S., in 1995 in Blaine, Minnesota and in Denver, Colorado in 2006.

Milwaukee was supposed to hold the games in 2011 but the host society backed out of its involvement and that competition was cancelled.

Since then NAIG officials have confirmed that the games will only be held at Canadian locations, in part because of various government funding that is available to help host.

More information on the various sports that are still looking to complete their rosters for B.C. teams that will participate at this year’s NAIG is available at www.isparc.ca

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