North American Indigenous Games

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The North American Indigenous Games is a multi-sport event involving indigenous North American athletes staged intermittently since 1990. The Games are governed by the North American Indigenous Games Council, a 26-member council of representatives from 13 provinces and territories in Canada and 13 regions in the United States.

History[edit]

The dream to hold a Games for the Indigenous Peoples of North America began in the 1970's.

In 1971, the Native Summer Games held in Enoch, Alberta, Canada drew 3,000 participants competing in 13 sports and many cultural events.

In 1973, the Western Canada Native Winter Games were held on the Blood Reserve in Kainai, Alberta, Canada.

In 1975, a meeting of the National Indian Athletic Association was held in Reno, Nevada, where it was decided to organize Games for Indigenous Peoples. John Fletcher, a Peigan from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and Willie Littlechild, a Cree of the Ermineskin Tribe at Hobbema, Alberta, Canada attended; John Fletcher is credited for his support in the decision to have the Games, as presented by Mr. Littlechild, based on the above success.

In 1977, the dream to host large scale Indigenous Games took another step forward in Sweden at the Annual Assembly of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples. Willie Littlechild presented the motion to host International Indigenous Games. It was unanimously passed. A Brazilian elder was so moved, he presented Willie Littlechild with a war arrow representing peace in his tribe. Advising it be pointed to the ground, this arrow would direct anything evil toward the underground. It is now part of the sacred ceremonial run.

The vision: To improve the quality of life for Indigenous Peoples by supporting self-determined sports and cultural activities which encourage equal access to participation in the social / cultural / spiritual fabric of the community in which they reside and which respects Indigenous distinctiveness.

"The vision of the NAIG, from the very beginning, along with my brothers, Willie Littlechild of Ermineskin First Nation at Hobbema, and Big John Fletcher of Peigan in Southern Alberta, was one of our interest and concern about what was happening among the young people in all of our communities. . . We took it upon ourselves to try and find something constructive for the young people to look forward to. And, what it was eventually, was that we would put together a plan for a Games through which the young Aboriginal people could come together to excel in their athletic field of endeavour and to come together to do other things: to make new friendships, to renew old ones, and so on..." (Charles Wood, 1990 Chairperson)


The dream became a reality in 1990.


The first Indigenous Games (or "NAIG") were held in 1990 in Edmonton, Alberta, followed by Games in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan in 1993, Blaine, Minnesota in 1995, Victoria, British Columbia in 1997, and Winnipeg, Manitoba in 2002. Denver, Colorado in 2006 and Cowichan, British Columbia in 2008. The 2011 games were to be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but about a year before the games were to be held, Milwaukee withdrew its host application due to lack of financial backers. Other arrangements have, however, been made and games were indeed held in Milwaukee, July 2011 on a smaller scale (Dubbed United States Indigenous Games). The 2014 Games took place in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.

Approximately 10,000 athletes from the United States and Canada took part in the 2006 Games (the largest to date), with more than 1,000 tribes represented. In addition to sporting events, the Games included a parade and a variety of cultural performances. The opening ceremonies were held at Invesco Field at Mile High and the closing ceremonies were held at Skyline Park.


Approximately 5,000 athletes from the United States and Canada took part in the 2014 Games, in Regina, Saskatchewan,Canada (July 20-27, 2014) with more than 756 tribes represented. In addition to sporting events, the Games included a large Cultural Village at The First Nations University of Canada and a variety of cultural performances throughout the Host City. The opening ceremonies were held at Mosaic Stadium at Taylor Field and the closing ceremonies were held at The First Nations University of Canada Campus. Of note was a large and violent storm that went through the Cultural Village on July 24th, nearly destroying everything except for the tipis, an army of over 300 volunteers worked through the night to clean it up in time for the following days activities.

Editions[edit]

Edition Host Notes Culture Results
1990 Edmonton, Alberta, Canada First NAIG, 3,000 participants in 15 sports 37 cultural groups and Ceremonial run Overall Winner Team Saskatchewan
1993 Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada 4,400 participants in 15 sports Traditional Powwow Overall Winner Team Saskatchewan
1995 Blaine, Minnesota, USA 8,500 participants in 17 sports 2,500 Cultural Performers Overall Winner Team Saskatchewan
1997 Victoria, British Columbia, Canada 5,000 participants in 16 sports 3,000 Cultural participants Overall Winner Team Saskatchewan
2002 Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada 6,500 participants in 16 sports 3,000 Cultural participants Overall Winner Team Manitoba
2006 Denver, Colorado, USA 10,000 participants in 16 sports Overall Winner Team Saskatchewan
2008 Cowichan, BC, Canada 4700 participants in 14 sports 300 artists, 2000 Tribal Journey participants, Spirit Pole Overall Winner Team Saskatchewan
2011 Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA "Games not cancelled but being held on a smaller scale than previous years"
2014 Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada 5000 participants in 15 sports traditional Indigenous activities, Cultural Village, Lance Run. Overall Winner Team British Columbia
2017 TBA TBA

Sports[edit]

Gold, silver, and bronze medals were awarded in sixteen sports:

Culture[edit]

The North American Indigenous Games Council, host societies and other partners realize the potential of a strong cultural program that would not only be for the benefit of the participants but also to the wider host community.

A cultural program at any NAIG shall be consistent with the founding principles being:

  • To promote indigenous cultural activities and exhibitions
  • To promote local indigenous history and culture
  • To ensure a traditional ceremonies that are utilized by the Host Territory are provided for NAIG participants
  • To ensure that traditional foods are for sale throughout the village
  • To ensure that indigenous people are showcased to sell, demonstrate and promote their crafts and artwork.
  • To ensure that indigenous people showcase knowledge and information pertaining to aboriginal youth programs.
  • To ensure that an Elders Program is designed to promote cultural and historical sharing through storytelling, ceremonies and interchange
  • To showcase a cultural gala of performers from all participating units at the opening of the Cultural Village
  • The cultural program shall be generally available and appealing to the general public in the host community and jurisdiction and all participants and visitors of the NAIG

Bidding[edit]

The NAIG is hosted every three years alternating between Canada and the United States of America. The NAIG can be bid on by interested ‘host candidate cities’ through a comprehensive and lengthy bid process. The NAIG Council Bid Committee is responsible for updating, initiating, monitoring and evaluating the bid procedures.

The 2014 North American Indigenous Games has been awarded to Canada. Therefore, the hosting cycle will require bids from American cities or organizations for 2017.

The 2017 NAIG Bid Procedures were re-opened on June 1, 2012 and will run through to awarding in November 2014.

Unconfirmed reports place The Seminole Tribe of Florida as well as Wisconsin in the running for the 2017 NAIG.

Unconfirmed reports place the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia bidding as hosts for the 2020 NAIG.

Controversy[edit]

While the Games have been widely well received in all Host Cities, there has always been a contingent of people who maintain that the Games are discriminatory/racist. Mainly, to those people who are not of Indigenous decent in North America.

2002 Games - While Team Manitoba was the overall winner of the games, there were many protests due to Team Manitoba dropping athletes into events that had no other competitors thus getting them a Gold Medal by default. This was never proven.

2014 Games - As per the NAIG Governing Rules: "The Host Society will attempt sanctioning as an International competition through the host countries national sport governing bodies/national sport organization." The Regina 2014 NAIG Host Society was unable to gain sanctioning of the swim competition by Swim Canada due to a shortfall in the required number of certified officials. As a result, NAIG Council supported the hosting of the swimming event as a non-sanctioned event (as had been done at Denver 2006 NAIG). Despite eleven contingents choosing to participate in swimming, Team Saskatchewan opted not to participate. Team Saskatchewan narrowly missed winning the overall medal count by 1 medal to Team BC.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

See also[edit]