On the morning of her first major competition, Hannah Morningstar was struggling just to think.
It was at the 2014 North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) in Regina, Sask., and the then 13-year-old was trying to find a way to throw her javelin as best as she could.
“On that day, I woke up feeling extremely nervous because it was an event I just started training for,” said Morningstar, on the phone last Friday. “When I woke up, my nerves were all over the place. I was trying to warm up but I couldn’t think straight.
“I just put my music on and tried to get in the zone.”
She found it — winning a bronze.
The passion for her roots and indigenous culture (she is from the Atikameksheng First Nation, in northern Ontario) has since shone through, and in addition to becoming one of the faces of the 2017 NAIG in Toronto, she is now one of the ambassadors for Team 88.
This is a legacy campaign initiated by NAIG to promote the positive impacts of sport and wellness within Indigenous communities and bring a focus to all Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) recommendations.
Music takes Morningstar to her happy place, and so back in Regina she listened to some Pow Wow and A Tribe Called Red. It gave her the serenity she needed to go from the zone to the podium, where she was awarded a bronze medal. Ecstatic and immensely proud, she called her aunt to rejoice. Little did she know that this was just the beginning.
“When I was growing up, there weren’t too many positive role models,” she reveals. “It always seemed like a lot of drinking and partying in the community, sadly. I remember going through my Facebook one time, and there was a quote saying, ‘Be the person you needed when you were younger.’ I’m really trying to be here for the young people in my community.”
Morningstar believes that the key for indigenous youth is to grow in a “good way,” which to her means not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well.
It’s a big reason she is so involved in cultural activities, and when she’s not practicing her javelin or discus throws, she’s often traveling as a jingle dress dancer, and was the head youth dancer for the Atikameksheng and Mississauga First Nation pow wows.
She puts in time with her grandfather — a chief and council member of the Atikameksheng First Nation himself — to weave split ash baskets, and has advanced to other creations as well.
“He’s actually showing me how to make birch bark baskets now, which is what we have at home.”
All these responsibilities are helping mould the 16-year old into a special leader, one that inspires those around her.
“In my own community, there are quite a bit of youth going to NAIG, a lot of teenagers around my age back home that are really starting to follow their dreams,” she says, with unmistakable excitement in her voice.
- Hannah Morningstar will be participating in the javelin, discus, 800m, 4 x 400m relay events. For a schedule of these events, click here.