Organizers of the North American Indigenous Games lit the sacred fire on Saturday, saying the rekindling of Indigenous culture is central to the sporting competition.
“We set a goal of 50 percent culture and 50 percent sport in these matches, so we inject a cultural dimension into every aspect of the match itself,” said tournament president George Tex) Marshall said in an interview after the ceremony. .
The 2023 version of the game will take place at a Halifax venue called Kipuktuk, as well as events at Milbuk First Nation near Truro, New South Wales, and Shipeknekatik First Nation, about 60 kilometers north of Halifax. is held.
Sports include traditional indigenous sports such as canoeing/kayaking, archery, and box lacrosse, as well as soccer, softball, swimming, volleyball, wrestling, beach volleyball, rifle shooting, golf, track and field, badminton, baseball, and basketball. included.
Indigenous rituals will be held at each venue, Marshall said. “There will be smudging (with sacred smoke), there will be elders who will ask the athletes for comfort and advice, and our signage will display our language (Mikumaku).”
But on Saturday, the centerpiece of the game’s buzz was the Cultural Village in downtown Halifax, where thousands watched traditional woodworking demonstrations, toured handmade birch-bark canoes and played the Mi’kmaq dice game. I joined to enjoy Walt Games.
The game will bring together approximately 5,000 players, coaches and mission staff from more than 750 indigenous peoples across North America.
When the sacred fire was lit, two elders called upon the ancestors to participate in youth sports competitions between the ages of 13 and 19.
“Our ancestors are always present through smudging, sacred fire, sweat and rituals. They made themselves known by the intensity of the fire, which was strong from the beginning,” said Marshall. .
Nearby, the stage was being prepared for an evening concert featuring current Indigenous artists, including stand-up comedian Clifton Cremo, a Mikmaaw performer from the Escasoni Indigenous people of Cape Breton.
Halifax won the game partly because of its size, Marshall said, adding that while it was big enough to provide good facilities, it was big enough to stand out in the city during matches. Advertised as small.
As he spoke, the Halifax Commons was filled with curious families at the various demonstrations and exhibits.
Outside a gathering tent at the Cultural Village, Ernest Johnson, 82, of the Escassoni indigenous people of Cape Breton, demonstrated how he used a sharp plane to scrape off pieces of ash and then make tree flowers out of them.
He also told people gathered around him how to use the bark to make tea, and explained how certain types of poplar could be used to treat headaches.
“We have it in our garden,” exclaimed one of the onlookers in amazement. Mr. Johnson replied, “You don’t need what you need in an expensive luxury store. It’s all there. You just have to learn it.”
In an interview after the demonstration, he said he hopes to provide city dwellers with a new perspective on the value of wood.
“If I have a chance to rescue wood, I will do it,” he said, demonstrating how to turn pieces of ash into a clapper-esque percussion instrument (known as a jigmakan) for use in dancing and singing. .
Maureen McMullin, a former music teacher, listened to Mr Johnson and said it was a learning experience.
“He calls his view of wood a ‘gift.’ It’s nice to hear about traditional methods. I really appreciate it,” she said.
“So many people come here to study.”
Fiona Kirkpatrick Parsons, chairman of the tournament, said in an interview that she believes the prominence of cultural activity within sporting events is due to the Indigenous Renaissance.
“It’s really only recently that we’ve been able to practice our culture – spirituality, rituals, dances, songs – all of which have been forbidden for a long time,” she said. rice field.
“I feel like my ancestors are saying, ‘Look, we didn’t suffer in vain. Now is the time to take it back.'” Now is who we are. It is time to take back what is and move it forward, not only for ourselves and future generations, but for everyone and everyone we interact with. ”
This report by the Canadian Press Agency was first published on July 15, 2023.