Women on the court: How the All Native Basketball Tournament went from no female teams to 14
Girls used to be limited to watching games from the sidelines
When Roberta Edzerza first stepped onto the court of the All Native Basketball Tournament in 1992, she had to do it as a member of the Metlakatla Trojans men's team.
For the first 33 years of the competition's existence, there was no women's division — something Edzerza helped change.
"I was on the floor representing," Edzerza said of that first year. "I knew this was going to make some changes."
Today, 14 women's teams are competing at the annual Prince Rupert tournament, which attracts thousands of visitors from across the province and is an important cultural event among Indigenous communities in the region.
Tournament chair Peter Haugan said Edzerza helped shift perceptions of female players.
"The [tournament] committee could see that the ladies could play the game," Haugan said.
A division of their own
Following Edzerza's historic debut, the All Native Basketball Tournament held its first women's competition in 1993.
Edzerza played for a Vancouver team that year and made it all the way to the finals.
However, she lost to a young Kaien Island squad which was led by her younger sister, Judy Carlick-Pearson.
"My sister was actually more excited for [our] win than we were," said Carlick-Pearson, who was named tournament MVP — a feat she's repeated four more times.
Passing the ball
Another player influenced by Edzerza was Adelia Paul.
She started watching the tournament as a young child and seeing skilled women on the court motivated her to play basketball.
"I just remember being one of those kids on the sidelines, just idolizing some of these players," said Paul.
Now, she is a two-time women's division champion with the Haisla Sr. Ladies team out of Kitamaat Village.
Paul also teaches at basketball camps and coaches a U-17 girls team, in order to help develop the next generation of players.
"There's actually girls on my team that I'm playing against in this tournament," she said. "It's pretty cool to see that."
'Now I'm playing for other young girls'
More than two decades after the women's division began, both Carlick-Pearson and Edzerza are still playing as members of the Prince Rupert Rain.
Carlick-Pearson is thankful that her sister helped push for female representation at the All Native Tournament.
"It had a big impact on my life when [Roberta] actually initiated that women should play," Carlick-Pearson said. "She was the first person to actually make that happen for all of us."
As a starting player for her team, Edzerza is not only working to win a championship but also to help her younger teammates grow and develop.
"It used to be about myself years ago, but now I'm playing for other young girls."
All week, CBC's Nicole Oud is covering the All Native Basketball Tournament which runs Feb. 10-16, 2019. Tune into CBC Radio One's Daybreak North to hear more.