Culture meets competition in Kjipuktuk

Culture meets competition in Kjipuktuk

< Back to Articles | Topics: Spotlight | Contributors: Emily Bednarz | Published: May 30, 2022

It’s the largest multi-sport and Indigenous cultural event ever to be held in Atlantic Canada since contact. Starting on July 15, 2023, the North American Indigenous Games will bring culture, competition, and celebration to 21 venues across Kjipuktuk (Halifax), Dartmouth, and Millbrook First Nation. Alongside cultural events and performances, the Games will host competitions in 16 sports over eight days with support from 3,000 volunteers. This time next year, Kjipuktuk will welcome more than 5,000 performers, coaches, managers from 756 nations from across Turtle Island (North America).

Creating opportunity for Indigenous youth

The North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) first started in 1990, according to Tex Marshall, President of 2023 NAIG Host Society. It’s now the largest multi-sport and cultural event held for Indigenous youth in North America. “The Games take place every four years with the vision to encourage equal access to participation in the sport, social, cultural, and spiritual fabric of the community,” says Marshall. “In broader terms, the Games provide an opportunity for Indigenous youth to come together to celebrate and feel pride in their culture.”

The Games connect competition, culture, and opportunity for Indigenous youth. “The collective experience of being among 5,000 other Indigenous youth not only helps to increase pride in being Indigenous, but also has the potential to push their athletic career to new heights,” says Marshall.

For many of the athletes, the Games will be their first opportunity to represent their nation. “That’s why culture is so intertwined in every aspect of the Games,” says Marshall. “We want them to feel comfortable and proud to show their culture — from the venues they compete in, to the accommodations they stay in, and throughout the whole city.”

The impact for participating Indigenous youth goes beyond performance. “That sense of pride, connection, and confidence not only helps them in their athletic goals,” says Marshall. “It can also lead them to so many other opportunities in their lives. That’s why these Games are so important.”

What the Games bring to Kjipuktuk

Fiona Kirkpatrick Parsons, Board Chair of the 2023 NAIG Host Society, outlines what to expect in Kjipuktuk next summer. “The first day of the Games promises to be magical, beginning with an inspiring Opening Ceremonies that will feature an array of Indigenous performers and cultural celebrations,” she says. Then, competitions will begin for 16 different sports, including three traditional Indigenous sports: lacrosse, canoe / kayak, and archery (in 3D!). At the Halifax Common Cultural Village, visitors and community members will be able to come together, learn, and experience Indigenous cultures from across Turtle Island.

The Games will generate visible, positive impact for Kjipuktuk and Millbrook First Nation, says Parsons — and they will be hard to miss, given their size! “While the focus is on creating an exceptional athlete experience, we really want these Games to be for everyone,” says Parsons. “These Games have a real opportunity to be a game-changer for our city, the province, and our relationships with Indigenous communities, and they also bring tangible financial benefits. The Games are anticipated to deliver more than $19.8M in new money for the city and province.”

Beyond the boon to the economy, Parsons anticipates that the impact of the Games will be felt for years in Kjipuktuk. “The Games will be a focal point in this city and on Indigenous cultures for well beyond a week. What will remain is an amazing legacy as a result of learning, sharing, and experiencing this event together. We’re excited to welcome participants and their family members to our part of the world and have them experience Mi’kmaq culture and hospitality.”

Getting involved

There are many ways to get involved with the Games and support its cause. “We want the community to come out and support the Games any way they can,” says Parsons. “From cheering on the athletes, to experiencing the many represented cultures, to volunteering, to joining as a company partner. We know these games will have a real lasting impact, and we know the 3,000 volunteers we’ll need from across the community will play a big role in making that happen.”

What unites the team and supporters behind the North American Indigenous Games? “Our goal is simple,” says Parsons. “To create a safe, fun, and welcoming environment for our athletes—an experience they will remember all their lives.”

Learn more about the 2023 North American Indigenous Games at:

< Back to Articles | Topics: Spotlight

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