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More than 25 northern Ontario First Nations represented at NAIG

Friday July 25, 2014
Photos by Roxann Shapwaykeesic/Wawatay News

Ladies from Fort Albany relax before their U19 girls basketball game on July 22.
Photos by Roxann Shapwaykeesic/Wawatay News

Members of Team Ontario, including reps from KI and Muskrat Dam, prepare for the opening ceremonies on July 20.
Photos by Roxann Shapwaykeesic/Wawatay News

After a full day of competition on July 21, Team Ontario’s canoeing team gets ready for a practice after 6 p.m. on the water at the Wascana Racing Canoe Club in Regina, Sask.

July 20 was a beautiful day in Regina, Sask.

The sun was shining, there was a modest breeze and warm temperatures, and there were thousands of Indigenous youth who had come from all over North America to compete in the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG).

Team Ontario had amassed an impressive 500 strong contingency that will compete in 14 sports throughout six days of fierce competition. Even at 2 p.m. while waiting for the opening ceremonies, the basketball competitions had already started. Some youth had just arrived on the shuttle coaches sent from around Ontario to bring as many athletes as possible to the event. My journey had started in Thunder Bay with 11 passengers, and by the time we were in Kenora, we were nearly full. This bus was one out of four, and our drive was a mere 16-hour ride, while others were 36 hours.

Among the athletes were a contigent from a remote James Bay community.

In Fort Albany there are two options for sport, either hockey or basketball and these girls play both. Amber Nakogee, Drew Metatawabin, and Karen Etherington are playing for the Team Ontario U19 girls basketball at the North American indigenous games and they’ve won each of their games so far. After today’s games (July 22), if they win both, they will compete for the gold medal game tomorrow at the university of Regina. Amber stated, “I am very confident in this team, we have good chemistry.”

The girls all started playing basketball seven years ago when Justin Sackaney moved to Fort Albany and brought the sport with him, coaching them ever since.

The basketball team plays on the James Bay coast for their high school, Peetabeck Academy. In order to play they fundraise to fly to Timmins, Kirkland Lake and Kapuskasing.

The girls had participated in tryouts February 2014 in Fort Albany and found out they made team Ontario in April. They said they were excited, nervous and happy.

Since then they played in tournaments and trained until present day.

When asked what the girls would say to young athletes who would be eligible to play in the 2018 games they said, “determination is key, we were once players that didn’t know how to dribble and now we play for team Ontario.”

For a shout out, all three girls wanted to say the same thing, “ we want to thank our coach Justin Sackaney for making this possible for us as athletes.”

You would never be able to tell the challenges and struggles people had overcome to attend this event, especially the staff who made it all possible.

While the youth were scurrying around getting the accreditation badges, uniforms and bags, the Mission Staff were organizing, coordinating, problem solving and basically working 18-hour days. It took years to put this event together.

The Mission Staff, almost 20 strong, organized the tryouts, the athlete registrations, the planning committees, the transportation etc. etc. etc. They worked endless hours, most of them as volunteers, to realize a great aspiration. The culmination of thousands of man hours coming to a sudden burst of reality as they all looked on to the team they helped create. A team that filled the grounds to create a sea of red uniforms and smiling faces.

For updated sports scores visit:

For pictures and event updates visit the Aboriginal Team Ontario (Official) Facebook page.

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