Meet Canada’s Indigenous Olympians
Spencer O'Brien of Canada flies through the air during a qualification run of the women's slopestyle snowboard competition at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Canada's Indigenous Olympians have made incredible contributions to our country's legacy at the Olympic Games, both in summer and winter events. In sports like ice hockey, skiing, snowboarding and curling, Canada's Indigenous athletes have been competing in winter sports at the Olympic level for over 80 years.
LAKE PLACID 1932 — Coming from a family of eight from Peepeekisis First Nation in Saskatchewan, Kenneth had a natural athletic ability and spent countless hours at the ice rink. He played for the senior men’s hockey team in Winnipeg and won the Memorial Cup, which gave him a chance to play at the 1932 Winter Olympics held at Lake Placid.
Kenneth and his team went on to capture gold, making him the first Aboriginal-Canadian to win an Olympic gold medal.
Sharon and Shirley Firth
Photo from Canada's Sports Hall of Fame
SAPPORO 1972 — Twin sisters from the Gwich'in First Nation in the Northwest Territories are two of Canada's most outstanding Aboriginal athletes to ever compete in the Winter Olympic Games. They credit their time spent trapping and hunting for their success with the National Cross-Country Ski Team.
Overall, they competed in four World Ski Championships, four Olympic Winter Games (1972, 1976, 1980 and 1984) and accumulated 48 national titles and 79 medals. They have set the bar so high that no other Canadian have surpassed their achievements.
Roseanne and Roger Allen
Canadian Olympic cross-country team at 1972 Olympic Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan. (Copyright © 2002, Canadian Ski Museum. For Personal/Educational use only. All Rights Reserved.)
SAPPORO 1972 — Roseanne and Roger Allen, siblings from Gwich’in First Nation in the Northwest Territories, aged 17 and 19, represented Canada in cross-country skiing in Sapporo, Japan. Roseanne finished 10th in the women’s relay 3x5km and also competed in the women’s 5km. Roger finished 13th in the men’s relay 4x10km and also competed in men’s cross-country.
Fleury in jersey #74. (Photo from Olympic.ca)
SALT LAKE CITY 2002 — Theoren is a Métis from Oxbow, Saskatchewan. He is mostly known for playing in the NHL, but also had the chance to play for Team Canada not once, but twice! He was selected by Wayne Gretzky to compete in Salt Lake City in 2002 where Team Canada went on to defeat Team USA to win its first gold since 1952. It was the most watched Canadian TV program ever.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, COC - Jason Ransom
VANCOUVER 2010 — A veteran of the Canadian women's alpine snowboard team, Caroline, an Algonquin from Quebec, is a two-time Olympian. Although she grew up skiing, Caroline was drawn to snowboarding at the age of 22 while working as a tree planter. She finished 20th in the parallel giant slalom at her Olympic debut in Vancouver 2010 and 6th in the same event in Sochi 2014.
Photo from Olympic.ca
VANCOUVER 2010 — Carolyn Darbyshire-McRorie is of Métis heritage and began curling at age 11. She went on to win an Olympic silver medal at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games, defeating Switzerland in the semi-final.
COC Photo by Jason Ransom
SOCHI 2014 | PYEONGCHANG 2018 — Spencer is recognized as one of the world’s most skilled snowboarders. At age 11, she was taught how to snowboard by her dad and sister. When her local mountain stopped building the pipe (for snowboarding halfpipe) 15-year-old Spencer was forced to take up slopestyle instead. She competed in women’s slopestyle and finished 12th at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi and will be heading to PyeongChang 2018.
Her grandmother is from the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation. Spencer has donated equipment to the First Nations Snowboard Team and is involved with promoting health and wellness in Indigenous communities with Nike N7.
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images
SOCHI 2014 | PYEONGCHANG 2018 — A proud Inuvialuk from Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Jesse started skiing when he was just three years old. By the time he was five, Jesse was competing against, and nearly beating, eight year olds. In 2014, he made his debut in Sochi competing in the men's Mass Start 50km, Sprint and Relay 4x10km, where he placed 12th.
Team Canada players Sidney Crosby (left) and Carey Price (right). (COC Photo by Jason Ransom)
SOCHI 2014 — Considered one of the best goaltenders in the NHL, Carey currently plays for the Montreal Canadiens. He was raised in Anahim Lake, BC, where his mother was a chief in the Ulkatcho First Nations. During the winter months, his father taught him how to play hockey on a frozen creek. He played for Team Canada as they defeated Sweden to capture the gold in Sochi.
Brigette Lacquette (right) is one of 23 women hockey players that will represent Canada at the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games. (COC photo)
PYEONGCHANG 2018 — Brigette Lacquette has made history! She is the first Indigenous hockey player to be selected to Canada's National Women's Team and will represent Canada at PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games. The 25-year-old Métis woman was selected from more than 250 young female hockey players (and aspiring Olympians!) at a special ceremony in Calgary.
She began to play hockey at age five and looked up to Jordin Tutu as he was the first person of Inuit descent to be drafted by an NHL team. She is thrilled to be a role model for young First Nations athletes and girls who play hockey.
Brigitte grew up in Mallard, Manitoba, a small community of about 150 people, that is approximately four hours northwest of Winnipeg — which meant that she spent a lot of time in the car travelling to and from hockey practices, tournaments and playoffs. She is grateful to her parents, Terance and Anita, who kept her focused and who drove her all over the province so she could play the sport she loves.
Canada's Matt Ellison, left, Rene Bourque, center, and Taylor Beck celebrate after scoring their team first goal during the Channel One Cup ice hockey match on Friday, Dec. 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
PYEONGCHANG 2018 — Meet Rene. He is a Métis, right wing hockey player who will be defending Canada’s gold in men’s ice hockey at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. He has also played in the NHL with the Chicago Blackhawks, Calgary Flames, Montreal Canadiens, Anaheim Ducks, Columbus Blue Jackets and the Colorado Avalanche.
He grew up in Lac La Biche, a small town in northern Alberta, where he saw first-hand that life was tough for other Métis kids. While playing in the NHL, he spent time off ice doing charitable work by donating over 100 sets of hockey equipment and free NHL tickets to low-income First Nations kids.
Kevin Koe is the skip on Team Canada's curling team. As the skip Kevin strategizes and comes up with the game plan for his teammates. (COC photo)
PYEONGCHANG 2018 — Kevin Koe is a three-time Canadian champion and a two-time world champion on the Canadian National curling team. He comes from a curling family where his sister and brother also play. He began curling at age 12 and competing at 14 while living in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.
Kevin is also Indigenous, as his dad, Fred Koe, is a member of the Gwi'chin First Nation in the Northwest Territories.