This is the story of Xulsi’malt, known to the world as Harry Manson, a name that would forever echo in the annals of sports history. A member of the Snuneymuxw First Nation, Harry’s journey from the natural beauty of his homeland to the rugged soccer fields of Nanaimo is a tale of talent, resilience, and groundbreaking achievements.

Harry Manson was among the first Indigenous athletes to overcome racism and discrimination in sports. His legacy goes beyond his goals and victories.

It reflects the unyielding spirit of a man. He played for his love of the game, the honour of his people, and the dream of a more inclusive world. This is the remarkable story of Harry Manson, a true pioneer who left his mark both on and off the soccer pitch.

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Early Life and Origins

In the early 1890s, in the coal-producing region of eastern Vancouver Island just outside of Nanaimo, the interest in competitive soccer was at an all-time high. Harry Manson, later taking the English name, was a standout athlete with exceptional skills in soccer. Born and raised on Vancouver Island as part of the Snuneymuxw First Nation, Harry’s early life was deeply rooted in the rich natural and cultural heritage of the Coast Salish People.

Harry Manson indigenous hall of fame
Harry Manson was one of the first Snuneymuxw athletes to be recruited by the Nanaimo Thistles in 1898. Courtesy of the BC Sports Hall of Fame

Athletic Prowess and Soccer Career

Harry Manson’s soccer career began in earnest in 1898 when he was recruited by the Nanaimo Thistles. His debut marked the start of a remarkable journey in competitive soccer, showcasing his lightning speed, remarkable scoring ability, and versatility on the field. Harry’s leadership and vision led to the formation of the Nanaimo Indian Wanderers Association Football Club (AFC), where he served as team captain, steering the team to numerous victories.

harry manson and the nanaimo association football soccer team

Breaking Barriers and Achievements

Despite the prevailing racism of the time, Harry and his Indigenous teammates excelled, with Harry becoming one of the first Indigenous players to win a provincial championship. His participation in the Nanaimo All-Star Team and the significant victory against the Esquimalt Garrison in the Senior Challenge Cup finals were historic milestones, highlighting his role in breaking racial barriers in sports.

harry manson trophy the grand challenge cup
Grand Challenge Cup awarded by the British Columbia Football Association, won by Harry Manson and the Nanaimo Indian Wanderers. Courtesy of the BC Sports Hall of Fame

Legacy and Tragic End

Harry Manson’s life was tragically cut short in 1912 in an accident.

However, his legacy as a pioneering Indigenous athlete who left a lasting mark on his community and the world of sports remains.

Harry was inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame in 2016, he is also honoured in the Nanaimo Sports Hall of Fame, the Canadian Soccer Hall of fame and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

Harry Manson with his family kids
Harry Manson pictured with his young children, ca. 1912. Courtesy of the BC Sports Hall of Fame

Personal Life and Family

Little is known about Harry’s personal life, except that he was a loving father. His family, particularly his son Adam, continued to honor his memory and legacy. Harry’s Snuneymuxw name, xulsi’malt, meaning “One Who Leaves His Mark,” aptly encapsulates his impact both on and off the soccer field.

These sections provide a structured overview of Harry Manson’s life, achievements, and the enduring legacy he left as a pioneering figure in sports and his community.

harry manson trophy the grand challenge cup
Grand Challenge Cup awarded by the British Columbia Football Association, won by Harry Manson and the Nanaimo Indian Wanderers. Courtesy of the BC Sports Hall of Fame


What Other Things Are Important to Know about Harry Manson?

Harry Manson, a pioneering figure in the early years of British Columbia’s soccer scene, not only broke colour barriers in sports decades before global icons like Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson but also led a life marked by dedication both on and off the field.

Before his tragic death in a train accident in 1912, while fetching medicine for his sick infant son, Manson balanced his athletic achievements with a career as a commercial fisherman, embodying the spirit of resilience and hard work.

This remarkable athlete from Nanaimo’s Snuneymuxw First Nation, known by his Snuneymuxw name ‘Xulsimalt’ meaning ‘one who leaves his mark,’ indeed left an indelible mark through his contributions to soccer and his community, showcasing an extraordinary blend of personal valour and professional dedication.

harry manson Bc Sign
Harry Manson’s legacy is honoured with a memorial sign at Deverill Square Park in Nanaimo, BC. Courtesy of Robert Janning

What are Harry Manson’s Awards and Achievements?

Harry’s legacy extends far beyond the soccer fields of Nanaimo, earning him posthumous recognition and honours that underscore his significant impact on Canadian sports, like being inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame.

Thanks to the efforts of Vancouver soccer historian Robert Janning, Manson’s story, which risked being forgotten, was brought to light, reconnecting his family with their trailblazing ancestor. Janning’s research, particularly for his 2012 book “Westcoast Reign,” played a crucial role in preserving Manson’s legacy.

As a result, Manson has been honoured with inductions into the Nanaimo Sports Hall of Fame, the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame, and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

These accolades reflect not only his exceptional skill and pioneering role as an athlete but also the widespread esteem in which he was held, evidenced by his unique achievement of playing on all three of Nanaimo’s premier soccer teams—the Nanaimo Thistles, Nanaimo Indian Wanderers, and Nanaimo Association Football Team—between 1897-1905. Manson’s story is a testament to his enduring influence and the recognition of his contributions to the sport and society.