British Columbia

Burnaby hosts inaugural World Indigenous Basketball Challenge

After an inspiring trip to play the national Maori team in New Zealand, Haida Gwaii's Skidegate Saints are hosting the basketball competition as a way to learn and connect with other Indigenous cultures from around the world.

Host team Skidegate Saints from Haida Gwaii welcomes 16 teams from around the world to SFU

Oklahoma's Lords of the Plains play the Skidegate Saints from Haida Gwaii in an exhibition match before the HaiCo World Indigenous Basketball Challenge. (HaiCo World Indigenous Basketball Challenge/Facebook)

Basketball teams from Alberta to Zimbabwe will square off in the first World Indigenous Basketball Challenge in Burnaby starting today and going until August 13, 2016.

The tournament is the brainchild of the Skidegate Saints, a team from Haida Gwaii.

Point guard Desi Collinson is one of the tournament organizers.

He said he was inspired by his team's trip to New Zealand to play the national Maori team. 

"That was a beautiful, beautiful experience. They treated us so well, and not only that, the basketball competition level was very, very high."

Skidegate Saints captain Jason Alsop said seeing how well the Maori team was organized convinced them to create the international tournament.

"If we can come together as Indigenous teams and groups and start to form an association, we can raise the level of talent that our young players can have access to," he said.

Members from the Tonga and South Sudan national teams arrive at Vancouver International Airport to play at the HaiCo World Indigenous Basketball Challenge. (HaiCo World Indigenous Basketball Challenge/Facebook)

The tournament will be hosting 16 teams including teams from Tonga, New Zealand, South Sudan and across North America.

Cultural sharing through basketball

In their interview with The Early Edition, Collinson and Alsop said they hope the tournament will also encourage the kind of cultural sharing the Haida Gwaii team was able to experience in New Zealand.

Desi Collinson, left, and Jason Aslop, right, spoke with The Early Edition's Rick Cluff (centre) about starting the HaiCo World Indigenous Basketball Challenge. (Charlie Cho/CBC)

"The Maori people not only shared a pre-contact history very similar to ours," Alsop said. "We also realized that we share a similar colonial experience."

"Maybe it was a little familiar to us being there, but I think we shared a lot of about what our current reality is like and how basketball is a tool for us ... and what it means to represent your nation and your people."

Collinson agrees.

"There's a need for this ... to come together, bring culture together and bring the world together and have a good time." 

The opening ceremonies begin at 7:30pm PT tonight at Simon Fraser University.

With files from The Early Edition.


To listen to the audio, click on the link labelled Burnaby, B.C. hosts inaugural World Indigenous Basketball Challenge.

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