Former NAIG president to be inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame

Wednesday, June 26th, 2024 12:10pm


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Alex Nelson
By Sam Laskaris
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

One of the pioneers of the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) is part of the 2024 class for Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

Alex Nelson, a member of Musgamaqw-Dzawada’enuxw First Nation in British Columbia, will enter the hall via the Builder category.

Induction ceremonies will be held on Oct. 23 in Gatineau, Que.

Nelson, who is now 77 and lives in Victoria, was the first chairperson for the NAIG, which were first held in 1990 in Edmonton.

He served three terms as the NAIG president. And he was also the executive director of the 1997 Games, which were staged in Victoria, where he has lived for the past 50 years.

Nelson also served as the Team BC chef de mission at the NAIG twice.

“I thank the Creator for this nomination,” Nelson said of his upcoming induction into the national hall. “I’m not religious in that sense. But spiritually I am.”

Nelson has attended all 11 editions of the NAIG, including the most recent one held last summer primarily in Halifax.

Nelson was one of four individuals inducted into the NAIG Hall of Honour at those Games held last July.

News that he would be inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame was very much welcomed.

“It did bring me back awesome memories,” Nelson said. "I have very fond memories of the being involved in (NAIG's) creation."

When reflecting back on his life, Nelson said there is also some sadness that comes to mind.

He was born in Kingcome Inlet, B.C. But he spent seven years at a residential school in Alert Bay, Vancouver Island.

Going from a residential school survivor to an inductee into Canada’s sporting hall of fame is quite a journey.

Nelson said he was able to be successful on the journey in large part because of his relationship with the Creator.

“There is a belief to believe in yourself,” he said. “And I always draw on structure and function.”

Nelson was a sports administration student at the University of Victoria.

His advocacy for Indigenous sports began in 1989 when he was one of the co-founders of the Aboriginal Sports and Recreation Association of British Columbia.

Besides the NAIG Hall of Honour, Nelson has also been previously inducted into a pair of other sports halls.

He was an inductee into the Victoria Sports Hall of Fame in 2017. And then in 2018 he got into the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame.

He continues to be involved today with his province’s Indigenous governing body for sports, titled the Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity and Recreation Council. He serves as an Elder and senior advisor for the council.

A total of 237 nominees had been submitted to be part of the 2024 class for Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

Nelson is one of two individuals that will be inducted through the Builder category. Joining him is Dr. Guylaine Demers from Quebec.

Six others, including runner Angela Chalmers, a member of Birdtail Sioux First Nation in Manitoba, will be inducted via the Athlete category.

The others are Vicky Sunohara (hockey), Daniel Nestor (tennis), Patrick Chan (figure skating), Kirby Cote (para swimming) and Fred Thomas, who will be inducted posthumously as a multisport athlete.

Former Olympic high jumper Debbie Brill will also enter the hall through the Trailblazer category.

Brill, who placed eighth in the women’s high jump at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, helped revolutionize the sport with her backward jumping style dubbed the Brill Bend.

Nelson plans to attend the induction ceremonies. But he’s not quite sure yet how many family members, other than his wife Nella, will be joining him.

“I’m trying to figure out how many people we can bring,” he said.

Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.