'I don't want to let them down': Sask. archery coach flies to Indigenous Games days after losing sister

One of the coaches for Saskatchewan's 3D archery team lost her sister before before flying to the North American Indigenous Games. Ivy Delorme chose to continue coaching because she says she made commitment she made to her young athletes.

Ivy Delorme says she made a commitment to her young athletes

NAIG Athletes take a pointed walk in the woods/ 3:06

An elder once told Ivy Delorme it's better to grieve life and celebrate death because it is in life where one person endures all their hardships. When they die, the suffering ends.

That lesson is something Delorme, one of the coaches for Saskatchewan's 3D archery team at the North American Indigenous Games, kept in mind when she received news of her sister's death the Thursday before she made her flight out to Toronto.

I know in my heart I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing.- Ivy Delorme

"For me, I know that my sister is not suffering no more," Delorme said, who is from the Cowessess First Nation but has called Ochapowace home for the last 16 or so years.

"I'm going to enjoy the game with my athletes — the young athletes — and I'm dedicating this time to her and I know in my heart I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing."

Ivy Delorme is dedicating her time at the Indigenous Games to her sister who died last week. (Creeden Martell/CBC)

Delorme said her sister, Natalie Joanne Delorme, was sick and suffered for about 14 years. Delorme said her mother had encouraged her to make the trip to Ontario; her father wanted her to stay and make funeral arrangements for her sister.

Delorme said she told her father that he didn't understand the commitment she made to her athletes.

"I need to continue this commitment for my athletes. If I don't go, we may have to forfeit," she recalled explaining.

"I don't want my team to forfeit because they worked so hard for this — they worked so hard for this and I don't want to let them down."

It's not the first time she has lost someone close to her. Delorme said the journey in her 16 years of coaching has been a long one.

It was 16 years ago that Delorme lost her 10-year-old son, Houston Jade Delorme, when he was hit by a vehicle back in August 2000.

Houston (left) and Natalie Delorme (right). (Submitted by Ivy Delorme)

Since then she has coached canoeing, level two boxing and broomball. For nine of those years, Delorme has been coaching archery where she said most of her interest lies.

It is her first time coaching at the Indigenous Games, something she said has been a dream of hers.

Delorme said she lost Houston after a community meeting in which youth athletes were preparing to head to the Indian Summer Games on the Little Pine First Nation.

"It devastated our entire community," she said of her son's death, adding the chief and council and the recreational director wanted to keep the athletes home after hearing the news.

Delorme and her husband, Brian Bear, called a meeting and said the community athletes had to make it to Little Pine because their own son Houston was all about the Summer Games.

"At that time I decided I was going to dedicate my time to the youth and become a coach."

During that time, she estimates she has coached about 70 athletes athletes in archery — one of which is Team Saskatchewan 19U traditional bow archer Ernest "Ernie" George, from the Ochapowace First Nation.

'That bow became part of him'

Team Saskatchewan's archery team is eight shooters deep — all of which are first time NAIG competitors.

George said he likes the challenge of archery and the mental aspect of sport.

"It feels like it's more effort than a gun and a scope," George said, in between rounds of the 19U and 16U male compound and instinctive event, Tuesday morning.

George doesn't say much but when he does, it's straight to the point. George said the competition has been almost as good as he is.

He took up archery after he was cut from the baseball squad and has been training with archery for the last seven years.

Team Saskatchewan 19U traditional bow archer Ernest “Ernie” George is from the Ochapowace First Nation. (Creeden Martell/CBC)

Delorme said she recognized George's potential early, calling him a natural.

"We didn't have to work hard with him at all," Delorme said of George. "He'd walk over and pick up that bow and it was just like that bow became part of him."

Now 17 years old, George has been shooting since the age of 12 and finished his first day of NAIG competition with a score of 216.

Delorme's focus at the games is for Team Saskatchewan to perform and have fun, which she says is the way it should be.

She said the competition is also a chance to make new friends, as are the Indigenous Games in general.

"When you start, you're strangers," Delorme, referring to the archery course.

"When you end that course, you've already created a friendship and I think that's what's important."

About the Author

Creeden Martell

Web writer

Creeden Martell works for CBC Saskatchewan in Regina.