The North American Indigenous Games at McMaster "increased Indigenous understanding and awareness"

By Sarah Janes, August 2, 2017

If you were around McMaster University from July 16-21 you would have noticed the hive of activity as campus served as a hub for the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG). Host society members, mission staff, officials, and more than 2,180 athletes were housed in the Athlete's Village for the duration of the Games. A Cultural Village was setup on JHE field and the Ron Joyce Stadium soccer fields were used for competitions.

The Games, jointly hosted in Toronto and Hamilton and surrounding communities, provided Indigenous youth, aged 13-19, the opportunity to showcase their athletic achievements and cultural heritage. The Games are the largest sporting and cultural gathering of Indigenous peoples in North America.

"NAIG 2017 was a true celebration of sport and community collaboration. The University came together to welcome groups and individuals from across the country and to support and make a positive difference in the lives of young Indigenous athletes,” remarked Patrick Deane, McMaster's President.

The six-day event gave young athletes, youth, parents, guardians, and coaches exposure to McMaster's campus. Locals were invited to watch the competitions on campus and learn more about the Games. Campus activity was widely shared on social media highlighting the Athletes Village featuring Wig Wam Homes, evening concerts, vendors, medal presentations, and more.

"This event was made possible by the efforts of many departments across the University working together in order to create the best experience for the NAIG participants," said Roger Couldrey, Vice-President, Administration.

In the days before the Games Indigenous youth took part in Youth Movement ‘Field Day’ where they had the opportunity to meet athletes and the Hamilton Tiger Cats and get their photo taken with the Grey Cup.

"My organization’s appreciation to McMaster University extends far beyond hosting of a sports venue, an Athletes’ Village, and a Cultural Village," said Michael Cvitkovic, General Manager, 2017 North American Indigenous Games. "McMaster lead the way for all Villages by truly demonstrating a commitment to increase Indigenous understanding and awareness, and by ensuring McMaster was a safe, welcoming place for all."

Other events across campus included an Indigenous exhibit at McMaster's Museum of Art, a special presentation at the Planetarium titled The Six Nations' Night Sky, and a panel discussion about the intimate experiences of Indigenous female athletes and the barriers they face.

"I spoke with, what felt like, hundreds of potential students, their parents, coaches, teachers, and Elders from absolutely everywhere on the continent," said James Knibb-Lamouche, Associate Director, Indigenous Student Services (ISS). "The athletes and their families felt welcomed and we gave so many kids an opportunity to see themselves at this place."

ISS held a smudging ceremony leading up to the arrival of athletes to the Village and worked with Elders and Fire Keepers to maintain a sacred fire burning in their courtyard for the duration of the event.

Knibb-Lamouche left these concluding words following the event, "tan’si nitotemtik, ninanaskomitanaw kakiyaw oma askiy ekwa kiskinohamakosiykamikohk. Kiyawaw tapwe oskapewisak ekwa omikwanisicik."*

*I greet you all as friends. Thank you to everyone from this place and this school. You are truly helpers and servants.
(This is a high honour traditionally and one of the highest compliments that you can give to someone is that they are helpful and serve their people).