It’s time for a celebration, Toronto.
The 2017 North American Indigenous Games officially got underway Sunday evening, with the opening ceremonies taking place at York University’s Aviva Centre.
This marks the first time that the largest athletic event dedicated to Aboriginal people, will take place in Canada’s largest city.
Toronto mayor John Tory declared July 16 and 17 as North American Indigenous Games Day in Toronto, as a way to recognize this historic occasion.
“We are honoured to be the host city (for the Games),” said Tory. “I encourage all residents to attend and experience everything that this year’s Games will offer.”
This edition of the North American Indigenous Games, also known as NAIG, will see over 5,000 athletes from across Canada and parts of the United States take part in 14 different sports, spanning seven days.
While the sporting prowess of these fine young athletes will be the main draw, like any international competition, the value and importance of these Games goes far beyond the field of play, Tory believes.
“This week is about more than sports and competition,” said the Toronto Mayor. “It’s an opportunity for us all to celebrate Indigenous culture and heritage and to support Indigenous athlete development.”
The first North American Indigenous Games were held in 1990 in Edmonton, Alberta. Charles Wood, the chairman at the time, emphasized the importance the games could have in helping the young people in their community.
“We would put together a plan for a Games through which the you Aboriginal people could come together to excel in their athletic ability,” Wood said prior to the inaugural Games. “And to come together to do other things. To make new friendships, to renew old ones, and so on.”
Finally, after thousands of years of playing competitive sports, the Indigenous people had a major sporting event to celebrate their culture and athletic history.
This week, students from Centennial College’s Sports Journalism will be covering these Games at three different venues.
Teams spread across the Six Nations Reserve, the Pan Am Sports Centre, and York University will be providing a look a lacrosse, badminton, swimming, baseball, wrestling, basketball, volleyball, and athletics.
While these young journalists will be shining a light on this important event, the relationship between the North American Indigenous Games and Centennial College is mutually beneficial.
Debbi Wilkes, Olympic silver medallist and instructor in the college’s Sports Journalsim program, has been leading the efforts during preparation of the Games, and knows what a privilege this will be for the students.
“Being able to report on these games at this time in Canada’s history is such a an honour for our students,” said Wilkes.
In addition, the students will be producing a highlight show Friday, recapping all the best moments of the weeks and a post event show the following Tuesday, putting a bow on the experience as a whole.
Check back with the Toronto Observer all week long for our ongoing coverage.