Ditidaht paddler brings experience to North American Indigenous Games

Nanaimo, BC

For some Indigenous athletes competing in the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) is the highlight of their athletic careers.

And some athletes are fortunate enough to participate in the multi-sport games more than once.

One of those athletes is Mazzari Tate, a Ditidaht First Nation member. He represented British Columbia in both canoeing and kayaking events at the 2017 NAIG, held primarily in the Ontario capital of Toronto.

Tate, a Grade 12 student at Nanaimo District Secondary School, is now gearing up for his second NAIG appearance.

He’ll take part in both canoeing and kayaking races at this year’s NAIG, scheduled for July 15-23 in Nova Scotia.

Fourteen other sports will also be contested at the games, which will primarily be held at venues throughout Halifax. Millbrook First Nation and the city of Dartmouth will serve as additional venue hosts.

Tate, a 17-year-old who will begin kinesiology classes this September at Vancouver Island University, is hoping to have some impressive results at this year’s NAIG.

He believes already having some games experience could prove to be beneficial.

“Hopefully it’s going to help as I’ll know what I should expect,” he said.

Tate was just 11 years old at the 2017 Games and he competed in Under 14 races. He’ll be in the Under 19 grouping this time around.

Tate believes he took part in six races at his games’ debut. He thinks he registered Top 6 finishes in his kayaking events and Top 8 results in canoeing races.

Tate was named to the B.C. squad for this year’s NAIG following his performances at the team tryouts held in April of 2022 on Nanaimo’s Long Lake.

Though he’ll be racing in both kayaking and canoeing events in Nova Scotia, Tate is not sure quite yet which events he’ll do.

“They’re talking about having some doubles events too,” he said. “I like individual events. But doubles are fun also.”

Tate, who has a slight preference for kayaking, said the 1,500-metre race is perhaps his favourite.

Tate was introduced to both sports when he was just six years old.

“Our nation put in some money for canoes and kayaks,” he said. “And they made a club.”

Tate has been a club regular ever since.

“I really like the racing and being with people I know,” he said. “I’ve been doing it for quite some time now.”

Tate is hoping to continue his kayaking and canoeing careers while he is at university. Vancouver Island University does not have varsity teams in either discipline, but the school’s outdoor recreation program does offer some activities that include kayaking.

“I’ll probably look into it,” Tate said of his post-secondary athletic pursuits.

As for the upcoming NAIG, Tate is hoping his schedule will includes some breaks which will allow him to also catch some action in some other sports being contested at the games.

In 2017 he was able to watch some soccer and volleyball matches when he wasn’t competing himself.

As for this year, there are some other sports that he would ideally prefer to attend.

“Seeing basketball would be cool,” he said. “And archery would be cool to see.”

Other sports being contested this year are athletics (track and field), badminton, baseball, beach volleyball, golf, box lacrosse, rifle shooting, softball, swimming and wrestling.

About 5,000 athletes from across Canada and the United States are expected to take part in the Games.

All of the athletes will be representing their province, territory, state or regional area.

This marks the 10th time the NAIG will be held. The inaugural Games were staged in 1990 in Edmonton.

The original plan was to have the NAIG alternate between Canadian and American host cities. But the Games have only been held in the U.S. twice, in Blaine, Minnesota in 1995 and in the Colorado city of Denver in 2006.

Milwaukee was supposed to host the 2011 NAIG. But those games were cancelled when the host society withdrew its involvement a year earlier.

As for the upcoming games, Nova Scotia officials have been waiting for quite some time to welcome athletes from across North America.

The games were originally scheduled for 2020. But they were postponed for a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event was postponed again, in 2021, this time indefinitely, since organizers were unsure when it would be safe to put on the games, following the lifting of health and travel restrictions that had been put in place.

To prepare for the upcoming games, Tate gets out onto the water whenever he can. Plus, he is doing some land training every day, usually consisting of upper body work, either at home or at a local gym.

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