Northern Spirit Games focus on culture

British Columbia is not the only province celebrating the spirit of winter games this year.

Blessed Mother Teresa was one of five Catholic high schools in Toronto that hosted the Seventh Annual Northern Spirit Games this past week. Students from nearly 50 elementary schools took part in the games which focused on understanding traditional aboriginal culture through teamwork and sport.

Based on the Arctic Games, which first became popular in the 1970s, the Spirit Games allowed elementary school students from across the city to take part in traditional native activities, as an extension of their native studies classes.

“(Participating in the games) makes learning come alive and makes it jump from the book,” John Somosi, a presenter at the games said. “It gives them a physical experience that they’ll remember.”

Brian Armstrong, games coordinator and a former elementary school teacher, agrees the games are a great way to learn through having fun and being physically active.

“Yes, there is a time for the theory part,” he said. “But if you actually physically take part in something and if you are active in something then the retention level really increases.”

Coordinator Brian Armstrong and presenter John Somosi speak about their involvement in the Northern Spirit Games.


Somosi and partner Kathryn Edgecombe are both of Metis descent and performed traditional native songs for the children during the opening ceremonies.

They taught the students how to use hand drums and encouraged them to sing and dance.

“It just lets them have fun because everyone likes to sing, or at least perform,” Somosi said.

The students also took part in 10 different games including kickball, a snow shoe race and a spear throwing contest. For safety’s sake, however, the children played with foam spears.

Another important component to the games was the interaction between the elementary school students and the high school students that volunteered to help out.

The older students were given the opportunity to perform leadership roles and the younger children got to know the students and teachers from the high school they may one day attend.

While there were many components of the games, the main goal for everyone involved was having fun.

Somosi said that although he wants to break down barriers of racism and teach the children about aboriginal culture, seeing the children enjoy themselves is a reward in itself.

“It’ s been a huge honour to be a part of this and it’s a real beautiful thing,” he said. “You’ll see the kids throughout the day have these huge smiles on their faces and it’s just fun to be part of it.”