Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
It’s been a bad news/good news cycle in recent weeks for officials from the Northwest Territories segment of the Aboriginal Sport Circle.
Last month it was announced the territorial governing body of Indigenous sports would be cancelling its popular annual Traditional Games Championships.
The 2022 games had been scheduled for Feb. 24 to Feb. 27 in Yellowknife. But that event, which traditionally draws representatives ages 10 to 12 from about 20 schools throughout the territory, was nixed because of the rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in the NWT.
About a week after that cancellation, however, reps from Aboriginal Sport Circle NWT announced they would be launching their new Indigenous Summer Games this year.
Many details for that inaugural event are expected to be announced in the coming days. On Wednesday, Feb. 2, Carson Roche, the event manager for Aboriginal Sport Circle NWT, was able to confirm the plan is to stage the summer games every two years.
Yellowknife is expected to host the games this year and in 2024. Officials would then put out a call for communities in the territory to start hosting the games, in all likelihood beginning in 2026.
Roche is hoping about 200 participants will take part in this year’s event.
“All 33 communities will be invited,” he said. “I hope we get representatives from each community.”
Roche, however, also realizes that just might be a challenging goal to achieve because of the vastness of the NWT. The territory covers more than 1.3 million square kilometres.
Roche said only a couple of other communities would be within a drive of a couple of hours from Yellowknife.
And he said the majority of others would require lengthy travel times, and for those from fly-in communities, an expensive return flight, in all likelihood costing $3,000 or more.
“It’s tough to justify that much money to come to an event,” Roche said.
The Indigenous Summer Games will include northern games and Dene games.
Organizers haven’t released many details about the summer games. But they did reveal the logo for the games on the Aboriginal Sport Circle NWT’s Facebook page.
Officials are expected to soon announce which events will be offered at this summer’s games.
Roche said the current thinking is that this year will be a four-day event.
“It’s depending on the numbers we have for registrations,” he said. “Maybe we shorten it by a day or we might have to extend it if we get a lot of registrations.”
Roche said both outdoor and indoor venues will be utilized for the competitions this year.
And despite its moniker, the summer games will not only be open to Indigenous competitors. Roche said non-Indigenous entrants and also competitors from outside the territory would be welcome should they choose to take part.
While the association’s Traditional Games Championships will remain for children ages 10 to 12, Roche said there would be no age maximum for those competing in the Indigenous Summer Games.
“We’re still discussing categories,” he said. “But everyone that is 13 and up will be eligible to participate.”
One of the main reason officials decided to start the Indigenous Summer Games is because they wanted to give participants from their annual traditional games an opportunity to continue competing after they have reached the age of 12.
“It has become one of the big events that schools look forward to,” Roche said of the winter competition.
Roche is hoping the stature of the Indigenous Summer Games grows in the future.
“We’ll see how it goes this year,” he said. “I want it to be more than just games. I want it to be an event that showcases traditional cultures and crafts. And we want to bring in different vendors.”
But he’s not sure how many of these features will be incorporated into the inaugural summer games.
“Right now, I’m not trying to put too much on my plate,” he said.
Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.