Traditionally, for Indigenous Peoples, what are now some mainstream competitive sports were and are traditional games that were actually a way of survival and life. Running, cross country, steeplechase were a part of hunting, for example: deer, elk, moose. Walking to gather herbs or berries. Archery was also used to hunt on foot or on horseback; canoeing and swimming were skills necessary for fishing. In the winter: snowshoeing, shooting, cross country skiing (biathlon), javelin or harpoon. These are some examples but there is also a uniqueness in that as a part of our culture, these activities all have ceremony and thanksgiving as part of the doing. In other words, there is a spiritual aspect for each which makes sports and traditional games a holistic perspective. So as we learn from each other we experience the balance necessary for success in every endeavour.
The stories you will read or have read about our “Hall of Famers” and what this all means is the importance of sports in the promotion of sacred teachings and especially the promotion of peace. Every Olympic Games there is an Olympic Truce where all countries who may be at war or have inner conflict put their arms or weapons down during the Olympic Games in the search of peace. What an accomplishment that is when carried through. Sport has that power to bring peaceful co-existence. In each of the athletes’ stories are those elements when there is a time for that inner peace with discipline, in order to achieve personal goals. It is the same formula for any dream we may have to succeed, the fundamental key to the larger challenges is like for any team: “we have to work together!”
Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame has a very important role to play in advancing Peace and Reconciliation and one of the ways is to tell the National story about Indigenous athletes in history. I am personally so grateful for all those that have been honoured knowing that it has not been easy for any of them to accomplish what they did for family and country. Reconciliation is about “having good relations” and the more we know about each other and the more we work together, building on the strengths of each other, the more united and stronger Canada, “our home and native land” will be.
Chief Wilton Littlechild