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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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