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The kickoff of the one of the world’s largest multi-sport events is about to begin. From July 10-26, the 2015 Pan Am Games will bring fans and athletes from around the world to Toronto.

And this years event features an Aboriginal Pavilion, which was designed to bring together Indigenous musicians and artists from across the Americas to celebrate the spirit of Indigenous communities. According to a news release, the staging of the Pavilion marks the first time in the history of the games that there has been a such strong showing of Aboriginal music, comedy, dance and multi-disciplinary arts during the games; it also signifies the first time in the game’s history that there is a host First Nation -- the Mississauga's of the New Credit First Nations.

More than 40 Indigenous musicians are scheduled to perform at Fort York’s Garrison Common, including A Tribe Called Red (ATRC); Nelson Tagoona, known for his throat-boxing skills; and the Cree Cabaret. And in addition to this lineup of talent, Nakotah LaRance (Tewa-Hopi-Assiniboine), the reigning 2015 Adult Hoop Dance Champion, will perform during the opening ceremonies games Friday. LaRance is a seven time World Hoop Dance Champion and Cirque Du Soleil star. Also, well-known comedic group the 1491s, and world champion Hoop Dancer Lisa Odjig will perform during the 17 days of entertainment, and this is just to name a few.

Bear from ATCR told The National Post that putting a spotlight on the Indigenous community is an opportunity to share their message with the rest of the world. “When you’re coming from a people who are underrepresented in the media, it’s really important to become visible,” Bear told the Post. “Not only that, but to portray ourselves in the way that we see ourselves, in a way that is true to us.” Bear explained that “just being a part of these things and being seen is the message.”

And what would the event be without athletics. More than 7,000 athletes from 41 countries are expected to participate in the Toronto Pan Am Games. The Sports Zone, part of the pavilion at the games, will feature notable Indigenous athletes like the Six Nations Lacrosse Team, and Johnny Issaluk, a traditional Inuit athlete, who was a 2012 Diamond Jubilee Medal Recipient. “These games helped my ancestors stay physically healthy and mentally strong,” he told CBC News. Issaluk will present a workshop demonstration on the Inuit Traditional Games. "I do a lot more than demonstrate,” he said, “I portray the beauties and the riches of our culture."

For a complete list of performances at the Aboriginal Pavilion, visit Alppavilion.ca. For more information about the Pan Am Games, click here.

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The Alberta Indigenous Games is not your typical sporting event.

Registration for the games at Rundle Park will remain open for the entire event from July 11-16 to present as many opportunities for indigenous youth to participate.

“The heart of our games is to make the circle of participation as big as possible and to remove all barriers for indigenous youth,” said Marnie Ross, the manager of the Alberta Indigenous Games. “We invite individuals to come and register. We’ll put them on a team. We’ll find them a coach.”

The third biannual competition will welcome hundreds of indigenous youth from all parts of the province to participate and compete in volleyball, basketball, ball hockey, archery, canoeing, golf plus track and field.

“We not only promote athletic development,” said Ross. “We also promote the intellectual, physical, emotional and spiritual side of sports.

“It’s the only multi-sport, provincial-wide sporting event for indigenous youth in Alberta.”

The Games also provide a sense of community and erase possible barriers for aboriginal youth between the ages of 12 and 20.

Monique Makokis, 16, an honorary youth ambassador for the Games and athlete recruiter extraordinaire, says her participation as a volleyball player two years ago allowed her to network and meet people her age.

“I did grow up just being the only child,” said Makokis, who was named Miss Teen Alberta at the 2014 Miss Canada Globe Pageant.

She trains and teaches a volleyball team in her hometown of Wetaskiwin. She also works with troubled youth in Maskwacis, assisting them with anything sports related, as well as problems involving suicide. Now, she says she’s humbled to be a role model for indigenous youth in Alberta.

Athletes are rewarded for winning at the Games. However, in keeping with tradition and culture, the Games also recognize those athletes who most exemplify the values of the Circle of Courage, a traditional First Nations model of youth development and empowerment. Therefore, the games will end with the presentation of medals and the Circle of Courage awards.

“The games provide a safe and healthy place for people to make friends, for athletes to learn about sport and, because we follow the Circle of Courage model in our sport programming, we try to infuse different values within all of our sports and special events,” Ross said.

Depending on the turnout in each sport, organizers will determine whether the tournaments will be either a round robin or double-elimination format.

The basketball, ball hockey, golf and volleyball tournaments will take place over the course of two days, with basketball, ball hockey and golf starting on Monday. The volleyball tournament will take place on Wednesday and Thursday. Archery plus track and field are on Wednesday and canoeing is on Thursday.

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Schedule of events

Here’s a look at some of the other events that will take place during the Games:

9 a.m. Sunday — Eagle staff run: Similar to the Olympic torch, the sacred eagle staff will be carried from St. Albert to Rundle Park by a group of indigenous athletes. The traditional eagle staff is donned with eagle feathers and its arrival marks the official beginning of the games. “It’s about generating excitement and starting our games in a traditional way by bringing in our sacred objects into the circle,” said Marnie Ross, manager of the Games.

Sunday 2-4 p.m.— Opening ceremonies: Similar to a Pow Wow, they commence with the arrival of the eagle staff

Monday 6-8 p.m. — Entertainment stage: The talents of aboriginal youth are showcased.

Tuesday 6-8 p.m. — Buffalo bundle games: These eight traditional indigenous games, hosted by Tim Eashappie, a knowledge keeper, teacher and elder from southern Saskatchewan, are challenging games meant to simulate the group of skills required to be a good buffalo hunter. For example, one game tests a participant’s ability to throw a spear through a moving target.

Wednesday 6-8 p.m. — Talent show: The popular indigenous rapper, Drezus, is featured.

Thursday 4-6 p.m. — Closing ceremonies: Included are the presentation of medals and Circle of Courage awards. There will also be a round dance.

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This summer, the United Nations Association in Canada (UNA-Canada) will use the universal language of sport to encourage physical activity, healthy eating, and cross-cultural understanding in urban Aboriginal communities of Edmonton and Ottawa. UNA-Canada is pleased to acknowledge the generous support of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association’s (FIFA) Football for Hope programme and Saputo Inc. in the delivery of our Sport-in-a-Box programme to urban Aboriginal and vulnerable youth.

Sport-in-a-Box (SPOX) is a tested action and empathy-based education initiative that empowers youth to think globally, act locally, and share their understanding of values of fair play, respect for rules, and other social skills. Youth aged 9-18 will be trained to work as peer-mentors for community children to promote physical activity, healthy lifestyles, and Canada’s values of diversity, inclusion, and intergenerational interaction. Through SPOX, UNA-Canada and community partners will train and mentor Aboriginal and vulnerable youth to gain leadership and coaching skills that are transferrable to everyday life.

In anticipation of the upcoming summer events, UNA-Canada’s President and CEO Kathryn White noted: “The excitement of the 2015 Women’s World Cup will galvanize Canadians from coast to coast to coast. We are proud to be partnering with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities in Ontario and Alberta, showcasing their leadership in soccer and creating a legacy of sport for health.”

UNA-Canada is a registered charity with a mandate to educate and engage Canadians in support for and understanding of the United Nations and its issues, which have a global impact. Working with a broad network of partners, UNA-Canada provides a place for Canadians to offer made-in-Canada solutions to challenges confronting the global commons and to develop skills in living together in peace and prosperity. In 2015, UNA-Canada is proud to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the United Nations.

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When role models are mentioned in sport, the first thing that comes to mind are high profile celebrities. While positive role models can be found in amateur and professional sports, it's the people they see every day that make the biggest difference. Parents, coaches, teachers or even older siblings often have a profound effect on a young girl and how they view themselves and their chosen sport.

"43% of girls agree that “there aren't many sporting role models for girls” - Changing the Game for Girls, Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation

What positive effects can a role model have on a person?

  • Body image, self esteem and participation: Studies have shown that girls as young as 9 can develop a self consciousness about their bodies that can contribute to them dropping out of sport. Exposing girls to successful, confident, strong athletic female role models with a healthy body shapes helps to create a positive image for young girls to look up to and can also drive young women to want to participate in their respective sports.
  • Leadership: Today's girls need to see sport as an essential part of their everyday lives, to have women that they can look up to and aspire to be adds an excitement and a motivator to push forward; they need to see women succeed in breaking boundaries in a largely male-dominated area. Female leaders are generally different than their male counterparts in their approach to leadership, usually involving more collaboration, inclusiveness, and encouragement towards others to get involved.

Mentorship is an extension of leadership and provides a unique opportunity for young women in sport to develop their skills and work towards personal and professional goals.

  • Behaviour: Coaches and parents play a particularly important role in this. Coaches can help with developing character, confidence and assertiveness within the sport while at the same time expecting them to perform to the best of their ability. Respectful and inclusive game play regarding other players, teams, parents and officials will also assist towards providing a positive experience and will encourage girls to keep coming back.

Parents can empower their daughters to participate firstly by enrolling them in a sport or activity of their choice and then providing them with the extras that go along that – social support, transportation, and providing any equipment needed. Keep in mind that the impact of social modelling appears to be more significant for girls, and children of active families have a greater chance of leading active lives themselves.

Having a role model in sport is an important part of social learning that allows girls to emulate the positive aspects of attitude, work ethic, and social dynamics and provides them the opportunity to envision themselves in the role of coach, leader and/or athlete that they may not otherwise have.

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In an era of schoolyard ball bans, bylaws that restrict tobogganing and parents' frequent calls of "Be careful" or "Wait for me," are we limiting our children's ability to engage freely in active play outdoors? Over-supervising kids or keeping them indoors to ensure they are safe limits their opportunities for physical activity, endangering their long-term health. It's time to get out of kids' way, let them play outside and give them the freedom to occasionally scrape a knee.

The 2015 ParticipACTION Report Card (formerly the Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card) was released today in concert with an evidence-informed Position Statement on Active Outdoor Play. Available in this year's Report Card, the Position Statement was developed by the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute (HALO-CHEO), ParticipACTION and a group of 14 other organizations, and was supported by over 1,600 stakeholders from across Canada and around the world. It finds that access to active play in nature and outdoors – with its risks – is essential for healthy child development.

"We have lost the balance between short-term safety and long-term health. In outdoor play, risk doesn't mean courting danger, but rather giving kids the freedom to assess their surroundings and make decisions, allowing them to build confidence, develop skills, solve problems and learn limits," says Dr. Mark Tremblay, Chief Scientific Officer, ParticipACTION Report Card, and Director of HALO-CHEO. "Kids move more when they are outside, have some freedom to roam unsupervised and engage fully with their environments, which will set them up to be more resilient and less likely to develop chronic diseases in the long run."

Research shows that kids are more likely to be physically active when playing outdoors and less likely to engage in higher levels of physical activity if a parent or supervising adult is present. Despite this, safety concerns lead to excessive supervision and keeping kids indoors. But, is outdoor play really something to fear?

What many adults recall from their childhood as thrilling and exciting play that tested boundaries - such as exploring the woods, rough housing, moving fast or playing at heights - is often called risky play these days. While these activities could lead to injuries, the vast majority are minor. The fear of stranger abduction is also disproportionate to the risk; the odds are estimated to be about 1 in 14 million.

Despite common knowledge that Canadian kids need to sit less and move more, the two lowest grades in this year's report card are a D- for Sedentary Behaviours and a D- for Overall Physical Activity. Child and youth physical activity levels remain alarmingly low, with only nine per cent of five- to 17-year-olds meeting the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines of 60 minutes per day of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity.

"In order to help ensure Canadian children get enough heart-pumping activity, we need to recognize that they are competent and capable to go out and explore on their own or with friends," says Elio Antunes, President and CEO, ParticipACTION. "This will also allow them to have more fun and learn how to manage and assess risks independently. Children move more, sit less and play longer in self-directed outdoor play, so the biggest risk is keeping our kids supervised indoors."

Among the 11 grades assigned in the Report Card and in addition to the above, other grades include:

"D" for Active Transportation
"C+" for School
"C+" for Families and Peers
"B-" for Organized Sport & Physical Activity Participation
"B-" for Government
"B+" for Community & Environment
"A-" for Non-Government
The Position Statement includes recommendations directed at parents, educators and caregivers, health professionals, injury prevention professionals, school and child care administrators, media, attorneys general, governments and society at large to help increase all children's opportunities for self-directed play outdoors.

To download the 2015 ParticipACTION Report Card Highlight Report, including the Position Statement, or the 58-page Full Report, please visit www.participactionreportcard.com.

About the Report Card

The ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth (formerly the Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card) is the most comprehensive assessment of child and youth physical activity in Canada. The Report Card synthesizes data from multiple sources, including the best available peer-reviewed research, to assign evidence-informed grades across 11 indicators. ParticipACTION relies on its strategic partner, The Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute's Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group (CHEO-HALO), to research, develop and communicate the Report Card. Over the years, the Report Card has been replicated in numerous cities, provinces, and countries, where it has served as a blueprint for collecting and sharing knowledge about the physical activity of young people around the world.

Production of the ParticipACTION Report Card has been made possible through financial support from RBC, The Lawson Foundation, the MLSE Foundation, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, provincial and territorial governments through the Interprovincial Sport and Recreation Council (ISRC) and IA Clarington Investments.

About ParticipACTION

ParticipACTION is a national non-profit organization that helps Canadians sit less and move more. Originally established in 1971, ParticipACTION works with its partners, which include sport, physical activity, recreation organizations, government and corporate sponsors, to make physical activity a vital part of everyday life. ParticipACTION is generously supported by the Government of Canada. For more information, please visit www.participACTION.com.

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This summer there is a lot to celebrate – traditions, culture and sport. Over the course of the next three months, The Mississaugas of the New Credit (MNCFN) are celebrating all these and more. Beginning in June, MNCFN will be involved in National Aboriginal Month events throughout South-Central Ontario. Then, MNCFN will be welcoming the world to Toronto as the official Host First Nation for the Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games in July and August. It is an exciting time for the MNCFN to proclaim #YouAreWelcome and invite everyone to join in on the fun.

“National Aboriginal Month is an important time for us to welcome our fellow Canadians into our culture and share our history and traditions,” says Chief Bryan LaForme, MNCFN. “The celebrations will include traditional and contemporary music, dance, storytelling, art and indigenous cuisine. There will be something for everyone to enjoy!”

National Aboriginal Month celebrations include the Na-Me-Res Traditional Outdoor PowWow on Sunday, June 21 at Fort York and the 6th Annual Aboriginal History Month Celebration at Yonge & Dundas Square on Wednesday, June 24.

Starting on Friday, July 10, the MNCFN will be bringing their traditions and love of sport to life in a whole new way as they partner with the TORONTO 2015 Pan American/Parapan American Games Organizing Committee as the official Host First Nation of the Games.

“We are honoured to officially welcome and build friendships with the Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games visitors, athletes and organizers,” says Chief Bryan LaForme. “As the Host First Nation, we are excited to be involved in the Games, share our story and showcase our deep spiritual connection to these lands.”

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A tiny person on skates hurtles through the middle of the ice, gliding with the puck to the left hand side, past the blue line.

Two defenders and a goalie stand between him and the net.

He toe drags the puck around one defenceman.

He does the same around the second one, making the two defenders collide.

“Oh my god!” a hysterical woman in the stands shouts.

Now it’s just him in front of the goalie. He shifts the puck to his left and slides it between the goalie’s legs — five-hole.

“Yea! Ha-ha-ha … awesome!” the woman yells as the crowd cheers.

That’s just one of many sweet goals nine-year-old Pond Inlet-native Atiqtalaaq “Q” Uuttuvak has scored this past season.

He’s notched 29 points in 27 games playing for the Ottawa Sting Minor Atom A.

Q’s mother, Anita Uuttuvak, posted a video of that goal to Facebook and YouTube, but she has no idea who that screaming fan was.

But that’s normal. People in the stands are always telling her how good her son is.

“We get strangers come up to us and say those sorts of things and we don’t know who they are,” Uuttuvak said.

In fact, Q is so good at hockey that he’s been invited to play in Europe for a Canadian elite team this summer — a year above his age group — in Hungary and the Czech Republic.

He’s also invited to another tournament in Russia in his own age bracket.

“He’s especially ecstatic about Russia because it’s kind of like going to a different North,” Uuttuvak said.

These aren’t your average tournaments either. Hockey coaches select players based on years of scouting.

“He was so proud. Even if he doesn’t get to go, the invite was a big dream of his,” Uuttuvak said.

Dream is the operative word there.

Uuttuvak is a student at the University of Ottawa, and a single mother of two kids.

And it costs thousands of dollars to fly to Europe, money that Uuttuvak just doesn’t have. So Q might not go.

Last year Uuttuvak successfully raised enough money for Q to go to a similar tournament in Europe. The team went to the final and lost. Q thinks he scored in the final but you’ll have to forgive him if his memory is a little hazy on that game. He scores all the time.

“Yeah, I think so … yeah, I did,” Q said from his Ottawa home.

“The Austrian team used a lot of body contact, and hits from behind,” his mom said. “It was definitely a learning curve for us.”

Q says he’s better this year though.

“Before, I wasn’t as fast as I was and I didn’t use my speed a lot. I’m using my speed plus the body,” Q said.

So Uuttuvak set up new fundraising sites so she can see her son speed past those Europeans again this year, in July and August.

More and more Inuit have turned to crowdfunding sites to pay for a wide array of things including school trips and medical expenses.

But Uuttuvak is looking for Aeroplan miles donations — her goal: 300,000 miles so she and Q’s brother can accompany him.

They’ve already received 236,094 miles, so they’re still short of their target.

Uuttuvak’s also hoping to raise $20,000 in cash — or a minimum of $15,000 — but she’s only received $350 in donations so far.

That money will go towards hotels, bus travel, tournament fees, bookings and surcharges.

Uuttuvak said if she doesn’t hit those targets, she’ll look into giving Aeroplan points back, or ask for the miles to go towards tickets to take Q to the Nunavut Stars Hockey Camp in Iqaluit.

“I don’t want people to think I’m taking advantage of their donations for a different cause,” Uuttuvak said.

But if they were to go to Europe, they’d be ambassadors for Nunavut, she said.

“I know it’s a lot of money to be asking for and people have their own dreams and goals.

“I just want to say thank you to them. And we try to advocate for Nunavut wherever we go and promote it,” Uuttuvak said.

Q understands that he might not get to Europe this year, but he says he wants to go a lot — “like, out of this world,” he said.

“I love you Nunavut,” he said, thanking everybody in advance for the generosity before handing the phone back to his mother, at home in Ottawa.

“He just came in from playing hockey outside. My cell phone is covered in sweat now,” Uuttuvak said.

To donate Aeroplan miles, click here.

To donate money, click here or here.

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Dancers and drummers of all ages started off the powwow season once again at the Piikani Nation Youth Powwow.

More than a competition powwow, the June 20 celebration organized by Piikani Child and Family Services, also coincided on the same weekend as the summer solstice, Father’s Day and National Aboriginal Day.

“It’s a way for us to be there as a reminder to our young people that these kinds of ceremonies and these kinds of celebrations form part of our culture,” Kirby Smith, the youth coordinator at PCFS, said. “We want young people to be a part of that and to make good decisions, healthy decisions and to create positive roads in their own lives.”

Young powwow participants must learn to balance three aspects of healthy living. The more than 100 dancers rhythmically moving around the Crowlodge Park Arbour in Brocket, Alta. maintain a level of physical fitness and stamina.

But the event is also rooted in religious traditions says Smith.

“With the praying and the ceremonial aspect of the powwow we want people to acknowledge their spiritual side too,” he said.

Involvement in the powwows fosters an emotional connection to their traditional way of life Smith also believes.

“We want them to have some kind of conviction or commitment to doing something that is reminiscent of our traditional culture,” Smith said.

The powwow started with the grand entry when all the dancers accompanied a Piikani flag, Canadian flag and the eagle feather staff into the arbour and stood for a blessing.

Coming from many of the First Nations in southern Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and the U.S., each dancer makes his or her own outfit.

“All the outfits that are made are done by the individuals. No two are the same,” Smith said. “They employ their own creativity in their outfits, whether it’s in jingle dress or traditional.”

There are competition categories that cater to every age range.

“That’s the beauty of our culture,” Smith says. “For all of our events and activities there is always an acknowledgement that everyone from young babies to our elders, everybody participates. There is a role for everybody...especially the powwows.”

Piikani-based musician, magician, hypnotist and entertainer, Trevor Kiitokii, emceed the powwow for another year.

"Powwow is one part of First Nations culture that was introduced in the late 1800's to early 1900's, mainly to stay connected to our history and culture after the introduction of residential school system," Kiitokii said. "First Nations gatherings were outlawed by governments. Therefore powwows are an evolved public practice mainly to retain and sustain plains people's ancestry and lifestyle. Powwow is not ceremony rather it is a social gathering."

He encouraged youth to participate and learn the difference between ceremony and powwow and that his role as the emcee is to share history while narrating the event. Powwow also facilitate understanding between adults and youth.

"There is a lot of understanding that needs to take place with powwow and there is a respectful process we older adults need in order to understand youth," Kiitokii said. "Maybe the powwow is a start - one medium to building a positive relationship so that our young people will become empowered and learn to be great leaders."

The organizers from PCFS promote cultural, healthy living and parent-based events throughout the year

“Our board and the whole organization is dedicated to making our community a better place,” Smith said.\

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