Indigenous Sport and Wellness Ontario stops in Sudbury on their tour to promote the 2021 Masters Indigenous Games.
Indigenous athletes from the Greater Sudbury area and beyond were invited to Cambrian College the weekend of Oct. 26, to participate in the Masters Regional Tour hosted by Indigenous Sport and Wellness Ontario (ISW).
The Masters Regional Tour was introduced this year to encourage athletes to practice and compete for the chance to test their ability at the upcoming 2021 Masters Indigenous Games (MIG) taking place in Ottawa July 8-11. This was the group’s second stop in their tour across the province, the first of which was in Rama First Nation (Chippewas of Mnjikaning).
MIG was introduced following the success of the organization’s long-standing North American Indigenous Games (NAIG), which provides Indigenous youth aged 13-19 with the opportunity to compete against their peers in a variety of sporting activities. There have been NAIGs hosted every three years since being launched in Edmonton, Alberta in the year 1990.
Hundreds of athletes from across the world met in Toronto for the first MIG in 2018, to compete in their respective sport, celebrate Indigenous wellness, and showcase their unique Indigenous culture. Which inspired the continuation of this now annual tournament.
In addition to testing their skills against athletes in their area, participants of the Masters Regional Tour have the opportunity to get free admission to the tri-annual games, should they place first in their particular sport. Each community on the tour will have the opportunity to send one female and one male, team or individual, to the Ottawa finale.
Every stop on the tour offers different sports according to the area, Sudbury for which, hosted archery, basketball, and volleyball.
Representing Sudbury in archery at the upcoming MIG, are the husband and wife pairing of Raymond and Sheila Madahbee, who were the only two participants to hit all 20 targets in Saturday’s tournament. Shiela of whom, hit the bullseye 19 times out of 20.
The Madahbee’s have been practicing archery since 2000, when Raymond said he purchased a bow for his wife and himself, with the goal of using this skill to hunt. Despite the intention behind the purchase, Raymond said that the majority of their archery is performed in competition or teaching youth.
The pair competed at the last MIG in 2018, where Raymond placed second and Sheila placed first overall. Prior to this, Sheila competed in the NAIG, World Championships for Team Canada on two separate occasions, national tournaments, and provincial tournaments, in addition to being named champion in one of the female categories of the 2011 US National Indoor Championships.
Raymond has also competed in several provincial and national tournaments he said, but more for the goal of comradery rather than competition.
“I gotta admit, shes a better shooter than I am,” said Raymond, “but I got one thing over her – I can get three arrows off before she can get off one.”
From all of these activities, both partners admit that the most fun is having the opportunity to shoot together. Especially seeing as they now shoot in different styles, which Sheila said eliminates any potential for competitiveness.
“For me, I find its a (mentally) relaxing sport,” said Sheila. “You could be having the worst day and then go shoot and totally forget why it was the worst day to begin with.”
Also travelling to Ottawa with a member of their family is Marc Laliberte, president of ISW and teammate to his son Alex on their tournament-winning basketball team. Something which Marc said he feels lucky and privileged to still be able to do.
“It’s been really cool, I really don’t take that for granted,” said his son Alex.
“We scrimmage together every week or when we’re up to it, but actually getting to play on a team and run together is really cool – an awesome feeling.”
Seeing the change sport has brought to his and his son’s life, is part of what inspired Marc to begin coaching teams for NAIG some years ago he said, and kept him involved in the organization to this day.
“I want to give back to the youth what the game gave to me and what other people going before me did in terms of inspiring me through coaching.”
Both father and son expressed a lack of organized Indigenous sport in their home town of Thunder Bay, which Alex attributes to a lack of communication on sporting events and opportunities. Emphasizing why tournaments like NAIG and MIG are so important.
“We feel that it’s good for them physically and mentally and spiritually,” said Marc. “They are able to play with their peers and get together with other indigenous youth and they see the opportunities that come from it, including going on to play high levels at college and university.”
The tour is a chance to raise awareness about the games and get people active through fun tournaments, said Keir Johnston, manager of high performance and sport at ISW. As well as an opportunity for athletes to make new friends and reconnect with old friends, or alumni of NAIG Team Ontario.
“I think sport is (about) keeping healthy, but also the social aspect,” said Johnston. “It’s competitive but at the same time it’s about getting people involved in sport.”
“I find you have to have something to push for to make your goals and keep on training.”