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.


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

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, 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 the lack of financial backers. Other arrangements have, however, been made and games were indeed held in Milwaukee, in July 2011 on a smaller scale (Dubbed United States Indigenous Games). The 2014 Games took place in Regina, Saskatchewan followed by the 2017 Games in Toronto, Ontario.

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 24, 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.


Edition Year Host Location Notes Results Overall Winner
I 1990  Canada Edmonton, Alberta First NAIG, 3,000 participants in 15 sports 37 cultural groups and Ceremonial run Saskatchewan Team Saskatchewan
II 1993  Canada Prince Albert, Saskatchewan 4,400 participants in 15 sports Traditional Powwow Saskatchewan Team Saskatchewan
III 1995  United States Blaine, Minnesota 8,500 participants in 17 sports 2,500 Cultural Performers Saskatchewan Team Saskatchewan
IV 1997  Canada Victoria, British Columbia 5,000 participants in 16 sports 3,000 Cultural participants Saskatchewan Team Saskatchewan
V 2002  Canada Winnipeg, Manitoba 6,500 participants in 16 sports 3,000 Cultural participants Manitoba Team Manitoba
VI 2006  United States Denver, Colorado 10,000 participants in 16 sports Saskatchewan Team Saskatchewan
VII 2008  Canada Cowichan, British Columbia 4,700 participants in 14 sports 300 artists, 2000 Tribal Journey participants, Spirit Pole Saskatchewan Team Saskatchewan
VIII 2011  United States Milwaukee, Wisconsin 2011 NAIG were cancelled. The Milwaukee Host Society withdrew their involvement as host for 2011 NAIG in June 2010. They resumed instead with hosting the "inaugural U.S. Indigenous Games" N/A (Game was cancelled)
IX 2014  Canada Regina, Saskatchewan 5,000 participants in 15 sports traditional Indigenous activities, Cultural Village, Lance Run. British Columbia Team British Columbia
X 2017  Canada Toronto, Ontario June 26, 2015 - The NAIG Council awarded the 2017 NAIG to Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The bid to host the Games in Toronto, led by the Aboriginal Sport & Wellness Council of Ontario and the Mississaugas of New Credit First Nation, received unanimous support from the NAIG’s International Governing Body. The Games were held on July 16–23, 2017.[NB 1] British Columbia Team British Columbia
XI 2020  Canada Halifax, Nova Scotia The Games have been cancelled due to COVID-19 and are to be rescheduled for 2021.[1]


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

Total medals[edit]

Team № Games 1st place, gold medalist(s) 2nd place, silver medalist(s) 3rd place, bronze medalist(s) Total[2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9]
 Saskatchewan 8 708 713 473 1894
 Alberta 8 356 366 385 1056
 Manitoba 8 292 303 254 849
 British Columbia 8 331 229 211 772
 Ontario 8 281 239 204 724
Eastern Door and North 6 175 120 118 410
 Yukon 8 90 103 101 294
 Northwest Territories 8 54 67 90 209
 Washington 8 84 50 45 179
 New Mexico 4 59 50 45 154
 Wisconsin 6 55 47 48 150
Iroquois New York 7 50 49 47 147
 North Dakota 5 57 36 21 114
 Colorado 6 39 34 28 103
 Arizona 5 40 23 22 88
 Nova Scotia 4 18 23 41 82
 Minnesota 5 30 27 18 75
 Oklahoma 3 33 22 17 72
 Connecticut 6 33 17 22 72
 New Brunswick 6 27 14 26 67
 Newfoundland and Labrador 2 15 17 20 52
 South Dakota 5 20 16 13 49
 Quebec 2 22 12 7 41
Florida Florida 6 8 8 13 29
 Maine 3 7 8 12 27
 Oregon 4 11 12 3 26
 Nunavut 4 10 13 4 26
 Michigan 4 9 7 9 25
 Iowa 4 9 8 1 18
 Idaho 1 9 5 3 17
 California 4 6 6 4 16
 Montana 4 9 3 1 13
 Prince Edward Island 3 3 3 2 8
 Utah 2 1 1 2 4
 North Carolina 3 2 1 0 3
 Mississippi 2 2 0 1 3
 Kansas 1 0 2 1 3
Georgia (U.S. state) Georgia 1 1 1 0 2
 Nebraska 1 0 1 1 2
Canada Maritimes 1 0 0 0 0


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:

  • To promote indigenous cultural activities and exhibitions
  • To promote local indigenous history and culture
  • To ensure 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


The NAIG initially were to be hosted every three years alternating between Canada and the United States of America, although more recently the Games have just been held in Canadian locations. 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.


  1. ^ Canada was also hosting the 2017 edition of the World Indigenous Peoples' Games


  1. ^ Laskaris, Sam (January 16, 2019). "NAIG host society appoints CEO for 2020 Halifax competition". Anishinabek News. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
  2. ^ 2014 NAIG Medal Standings
  3. ^ 2008 NAIG Medal Standings
  4. ^ 2006 NAIG Medal Standings
  5. ^ 2002 NAIG Medal Standings
  6. ^ 1997 NAIG Medal Standings
  7. ^ 1995 NAIG Medal Standings
  8. ^ 1993 NAIG Medal Standings
  9. ^ 1990 NAIG Medal Standings

See also[edit]

External links[edit]