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A group of Vancouver First Nations people has launched an initiative that’s pushing for more aboriginal participation at community centres.

In a new video created by Salish Sea Productions, representatives for Aboriginal Life In Vancouver Enhancement (ALIVE) introduce the program, Responsible Indigenous Strategic Empowerment (RISE).

The group’s executive director, Scott Clark, notes there is an obvious need for aboriginal-led activities for young people.

“Fifty percent of the urban aboriginal population are under the age of 25,” he says. “There is an untapped resource that we need to be plugging into, be it through the arts, through sports, through recreation.”

The RISE-ALIVE program is running at five community centres. Those are Mount Pleasant, Strathcona, Britannia, Hastings, and Ray-Cam.

In a telephone interview, Clark explained a partnership with the Vancouver park board has placed aboriginal youth leaders at those community centres to see them organize special events, run sports and recreation programs, and lead a range of other activities such as voter drives ahead of the October federal election.

In the video, Clark also asks some good questions.

“Why are there no aboriginal people on boards of directors of existing community centres?” he says. “Why are aboriginal people not being volunteers or being members? Why are there no programs and services around reconciliation so that we can educate the broader community around aboriginal issues and break down all these myths?”

Watch the video or read more here

Mi'kmaq runner Michael Thomas gets his day in the sun Sept. 19 when the Mi'kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I. and the Town of Stratford hold a multi-distance running event to honour the P.E.I. Sport Hall of Famer.

Included in the inaugural event is a one-kilometre kids fun run, a five-kilometre fun run and walk plus a 10-mile road race, a distance that was Thomas' specialty.

Proceeds benefit the P.E.I. Aboriginal Sports Circle, which promotes physical activity among aboriginal people on P.E.I. with a special focus on youth.

Lennox Island First Nation Chief Matilda Ramjattan said the day is a win-win situation.

"This event honours one of P.E.I.'s athletic heroes and a Mi'kmaq icon," said Ramjattan. "An event infusing the joy of running with Mi'kmaq culture is a great way to celebrate the legacy of Michael Thomas."

Advance registrants receive a replica of the Abegweit Amateur Athletics Association running singlet worn by Thomas. There will also be prizes and a showcase of traditional Mi'kmaq food and culture.

The five-kilometre and 10-mile routes will incorporate the bronze statue of Thomas placed on the Stratford waterfront by the town in 2014.

Thomas was inducted into the hall in 1980 andAbegweit First Nation Chief Brian Francis said his legacy continues on in other ways.

"We are happy to partner with the Town of Stratford on this event and we are particularly pleased that some descendants of Michael Thomas have been engaged in the event and will be participating," said Francis.

Read more here

A 7,000-km bike trip that saw Don Patterson plan and train for two years, ended when he fell from his bike and broke his right hip and shoulder.

“In the first two days, we covered 370 kilometres on a gravel road, with some major climbs, rain and hail thrown in,” says the former Edmonton lawyer.

“On the third day, I was following my nephew Rob MacInnis, who had taken off the summer to ride and support me, when our wheels touched.

“I went down like a ton of bricks. In 50 years of cycling, I’ve had a few scrapes, but I’d never broken a bone.”

Patterson had planned to cycle from Inuvik, NWT to Ontario’s Point Pelee, Canada’s southernmost point, when the accident happened June 22 on a lonely stretch of the Yukon’s Dempster Highway.

“I was airlifted by helicopter to Dawson City, then by plane to Whitehorse, and finally to Vancouver for an operation,” said Patterson, 61.

He was riding to increase awareness on the importance of physical activity for aboriginal youth and to raise money in support of the YMCA and the GEN7 aboriginal role model programs.

In collaboration with local communities, he also hopes to develop sustainable bike programs across the country.

“In the hospital, I came up with the bright idea of driving the rest of the route to honour my speaking and other community commitments,” says Patterson. “My doctor convinced me that wasn’t a very good idea. I think it was my morphine talking.”

But the cyclist, now a Mississauga commercial real estate manager, hasn’t lost his enthusiasm to help aboriginal youth and is looking, among other things, for two truckloads of clay.

“That’s what we need to build a pump track for the Enoch Band on the western edge of Edmonton,” says Patterson. “The band is keen to get the track built as soon as possible and has set aside land next to the outdoor arena.

“We hope this might be the first track of many in aboriginal communities across Canada. We plan to video the construction, show kids riding and use it to promote tracks in other communities.”

A pump track can be built in limited space and is a continuous loop of dirt berms and rollers.

“The pump track name comes from the pumping motion used by the rider’s upper and lower body as they ride around the track,” says Edmonton cycling guru Alex Stieda, who suggested the Enoch pump track idea to Patterson.

“The pumping motion is used to maintain speed around the track without pedalling. It’s a great work out, teaches kids BMX skills and is lots of fun.”

Pump tracks can be ridden by cyclists of all ages and skill levels, says Stieda. “You don’t need a special type of bike. BMX bikes, mountain bikes, kid’s bikes and even scooter bikes can be used. You just need a bike with knobby tires and a helmet and away you go.”

Younger riders quickly increase their bike handling skills and families can enjoy fun in a safe, traffic free environment.

Patterson, with the support of Sport Central, which has donated 60 bikes, is launching a bike program at Maskwacis, formerly Hobbema. He’s also working on bike and ski programs in the Northwest Territories.

Read more here

Hundreds of young athletes from across New Brunswick are in Woodstock for the annual Indian Summer Games, which got underway on Monday.

The children and teenagers from 15 First Nations communities in the province are competing in a variety of team and traditional sports.

It's been 41 years since the Woodstock First Nation last hosted the summer games.

Shawn Sappier, coordinator of this year's games, remembered when his father brought them to Woodstock in 1974.

"It's a great honour for me. I know he's looking down on me and giving me the strength I need," he said.

"Overall it's a good thing for our community to have other First Nations communities come here and go out and experience recreational activities, and just have a good time."

Camryn Saulas, a participant in the games and a medal hopeful for ball hockey, says she is looking forward to every competition.

"Just the games itself is a great time," said Saulas. "It's going to be a great week and all the kids are going to get together and have a great time."

Saulas will also take part in upcoming soccer matches and canoe races.

The Woodstock First Nation will see approximately 500 athletes and their families come through the community during the five-day competition.

"They're all hyped up. I think they can't wait to get started," Sappier said.

"It's bringing everyone together to help out. It's spiritually uplifting to see the communities come together and work together. It takes a lot of people to pull something like this off."

Events continue on Tuesday with track and field and ball hockey, with the opening ceremony planned to start at around 3 p.m.

The games will also feature baseball, volleyball, and archery contests.

Read more here

The RBC Sports Day in Canada team is feeling inspired and looking forward to Canada’s celebration of sport at all levels – RBC Sports Day in Canada – taking place on November 21, 2015.

We invite you to get involved by hosting a sporting event, such as a try-it day, festival, open house or tournament, between November 14 and 21. Event registration is open:

Enter the Sport Moves Us contest by registering your event online by September 4 and sharing how the power of sport is at work in your community! The contest winner will be featured on CBC’s national broadcast of RBC Sports Day in Canada and receive a $2,000 grant from ParticipACTION!

Learn more here.

Read more here

A nine-year-old hockey sensation from Pond Inlet, Nunavut now living in Ottawa is ready to head to Europe to play elite hockey against older players.

Atiqtalaaq Uuttuvak, a Grade 5 student at Queen Elizabeth Public School, will soon travel to Prague, Czech Republic, and Budapest, Hungary with his family for two weeks of stiff competition.

He has headed to Europe the past two summers, but this is the first time his family will travel to support him thanks to about $6,000 in donations from people across North America and Europe.

Uuttuvak, who goes by the name "Q," was only able to play hockey after his mother turned to Facebook to help raise money.

Sheutiapik Peter, Q's father. says his son is a modest team player. "He has great respect for his teammates ... he's there to help them and he seems happy and you'll see more of him."

Maxime Chamberland, Q's summer hockey coach, says even though Q is only nine, he plays smarter and faster than other kids his age.

"He's a great kid, he has lots of talent, skills, attitude and I've seen him evolve."

Some even call him the next Jordin Tootoo.

Tootoo, 32, of Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, is the first Inuk, and the first Nunavut native, ever to play in the National Hockey League.

Check out the photos above for more on Q's hockey journey.

Read more here

When Santee Smith first wanted to try out for Canada's National Ballet School, her parents said 'no'.

Growing up on the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve, they didn't want to let their only child go.

"She kept bugging us, and I think it took a whole year before we said OK," said her mother, Leigh Smith. "We thought, what are the chances? It's all across Canada, and if we don't let her try she's going to bring it up to us her whole entire life."

Santee was 11 when she got accepted.

"We were caught sort of in a state of shock coming home knowing that we had to follow through on our promises to her," said Leigh.

From starting to dance at the age of three, to being commissioned to perform and choreograph for various cultural events at the 2015 Pan and Para Pan Am Games, Santee's story is one of great passion and resilience.

"When we turned music on she sort of went into this dancing trance and moved to the music," Leigh said, recalling a record player given to Santee by her grandmother as a young child.

She is now 44 and a proud mother of a 16-year-old, but her road to a professional dance career started with tragedy.

Before the age of five, she broke both of her legs, one by being run over by a car and the other from a bicycle accident. She also broke her collarbone from rolling off the bed — all incidents that led Santee to start dance as a form of therapy.

"The teacher saw she had talent and spent a lot of time with her," said her father Steve.

She tried everything else to strengthen her body after the injuries, from figure skating to gymnastics, but ballet just stuck.

After moving off the reserve and into residence at the national ballet school in Toronto, Santee had a tough time adjusting.

She decided to stick it out, but after dedicating six years to ballet and training six days a week, she eventually decided it wasn't the career path she wanted.

Santee returned home to the reserve and completed two degrees, kinesiology and psychology, at McMaster University.

While studying she stopped dancing completely.

"I just stepped away from dance thinking I wasn't ever going to be a professional dance artist, and there was nothing really that filled the void of that."

At first, physiotherapy crossed her mind, but she was never set on one career.

"When I was finishing off my last year (at Mac) I was really worried about getting high marks. I almost made myself sick."

The lack of creative outlet triggered her return to Toronto — and to dance.

"Since about 1996 I've been moving forward creating my own work as an independent artist."

In 2004 she premièred "Kaha:wi," her first full-scale production, and by 2005 she became a full-time artist and choreographer. With the help of founding board members, she established Kaha:wi Dance Theatre (KDT) the same year, a non-profit art organization with locations in Six Nations and Toronto.

Through KDT she was commissioned by PANAMANIA, Pan Am's art and culture festival, to create a dance work that celebrates five sports.

The performance, "Tkaronto Bounce," took place at the Pan Am Park in Nathan Phillips Square and featured kayaking, taekwondo, volleyball, lacrosse and athletics.

Her group also performed at the Markham Pan Am centre for Global Fest, before switching gears to children's dance theatre and putting on three shows at the Aboriginal Pavilion at Fort York.

Aside from cultural events, Santee is also a creative adviser for the Pan Am closing ceremonies and both ceremonies for the Para Pan Am Games, where her input on traditional dance and feedback about culturally sensitive topics are crucial.

On Aug. 15, she will be performing as part of the Pan Am Pathway.

"It's a wonderful opportunity and we are very proud of her … Especially because of the significance and international flavour of the competitions," her father Steve said.

Including First Nations in the games in a positive way is essential to Santee.

"Acknowledging the land is really important, this place we all live on, and some of us have been living on for thousands of years prior to it being Canada."

As for her dance and choreography style, it depends on the production.

"I choose to be inspired by a lot of stories that come from my culture and I like to give voice and expression to that," she said. "But I don't feel like I'm limited to only those types of cultural stories, so it's very fluid and open."

Jesse Dell, 34, has been working with KDT and Santee for five years and has a dance degree from York University.

Born and raised near a farm in Peterborough, she didn't know much about her First Nations background until her early 20s.

"(Santee) inspired me to understand my own ancestry better and to understand the history of Canada better," said Dell. "It kind of changed the direction of my life and what I want to do."

When she's not choreographing or dancing she helps design pottery for the family-owned business, Talking Earth Pottery, on Six Nations.

"We don't catch half the things that she's on because she's busy, and we're busy here, but everything she's ever done has made us proud," said Steve.

Read more here

Megan Gurski, 21 is a member of Team Canada Softball team and they won gold. She returned home from Toronto on Monday after her team defeated the states 4-2. Her sister Rebecca Gurski, 20 is on the Saskatoon Tigers softball team and they won the gold at the provincials. The sister’s made an appearance with Megan’s Gold medal today at the grand re-opening of the Yellow Quill Urban office in Saskatoon.

Read more here


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