New Brunswick

Dreams of pride and gold: 2017 Indian Summer Games underway in Fredericton

As a fitness coach at St. Mary's First Nation, Justin Henderson cares deeply about being active. But as he stood on the sidelines watching his children play basketball on Monday, he said being there was all about showing his love and support.

Annual sports competition invites Indigenous youth ages five to 19 to participate in variety of sports

A girl waits her turn, watching her teammates participate in a game of basketball on Monday at the start of the 2017 New Brunswick Indian Summer Games. (Viola Pruss/CBC)

As a fitness coach at St. Mary's First Nation, Justin Henderson cares deeply about being active. But as he stood on the sidelines watching his children play basketball on Monday, he said being there was all about showing his love and support.

"Sometimes the parents aren't always there as much as we can be but being here for the kids makes it something for them to be proud of," he said.

Henderson and his wife Morgan attended the 2017 New Brunswick Indian Summer Games Monday with four of their children.

'They'll be proud'

The annual event invites Indigenous youth ages five to 19 to participate in a variety of sports, including athletics, lacrosse, rugby, t-ball and archery.

Henderson said it's an important opportunity for his children, who are taking part in the games for the second year in a row, to connect with other youth.

It's also important for them to hear their parents clap and cheer in the background, he said.

Justin Henderson and his wife Morgan attended the 2017 New Brunswick Indian Summer Games Monday with their five children, four of whom participated in the event. (Viola Pruss/CBC)

"If they work hard toward something, they'll be proud of it, and if they work for the next year toward something and then they get to show it off to the people that they love … it's going to make them work harder. I think that's a big deal."

Focus on youth

The Indian Games are hosted by a different community each year, with organization of the 2017 event falling to Kingsclear First Nation.

Organizer Brandy Polchies said this year organizers are welcoming about 1,200 participants from 12 communities across the province.  

Organizer Brandy Polchies said the first time she participated in the games, the experience was overwhelming. (Viola Pruss/CBC)

The games kicked off last week with a track and field day, and will run until Friday, Aug. 11. 

"It's basically about bringing First Nations athletes together, keeping the kids active, participating, having fun and letting them experience these sports that they may not have the opportunity to otherwise," she said.

The 2017 New Brunswick Indian Summer Games kicked off last week with a track and field day, and will run until Friday, Aug. 11. (Joe McDonald/CBC)

Polchies added the first time she participated in the games, the experience was overwhelming.

"It gives you a sense of pride, I mean we have this many First Nation kids that come together and for me it's a pride thing to be proud of your culture, and your heritage, and where you come from," she said.

Going for gold

But it's also a little bit about winning, added Preston Francis, a 13-year-old boy from Eel Ground First Nation.

Francis has participated in the games since he was five years old, and while he's trying out basketball this year, he also played soccer and baseball in the past.

Preston Francis (left) and Nathan Larry, both from Eel Ground First Nation, said they liked meeting new people at the games. (Joe McDonald/CBC)

While he likes meeting new people and having fun, he also said he likes "to go for the gold."

"You got to win," he said with a grin.

Fellow teammate Nathan Larry said he is attending the games for the first time.

To him, it's less about the gold than making his fellow Eel Ground community proud.

"I haven't really experienced a big basketball tournament like this before so its like my first one," he said.

"It's awesome, it's a pretty nice experience being here. I get to represent my reserve."