UWindsor professor compiles Indigenous athlete database to celebrate achievements

A University of Windsor professor spent 40 years studying Indigenous sports and her latest project is to compile a database of Indigenous athletes to enhance public knowledge about their accomplishments.

A list of almost 200 elite athletes is now available to the public

Vicky Paraschak is a kinesiology professor at the University of Windsor who has spent four decades studying Indigenous sports. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

Recalling the names of Canadian athletes may be easy for some, but what about Canadian Indigenous athletes?

A Kinesiology professor at the University Windsor has compiled a database of 173 elite Indigenous athletes and will be presenting the work at a symposium this weekend.

"It's an ongoing joy," said Vicky Paraschak.

She said she's trying to make sure there's easily accessible information about the accomplishments of Indigenous athletes. Part of her work involves updating information on Wikipedia, which she said is a source of information for many people.

The work is also a means of trying to address a call-to-action outlined in the Truth and Reconciliation summary report — to provide public education about Indigenous athletes in history.

Montreal's Carey Price looks skyward after allowing a goal in the final game of the Canadiens' disappointing season. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Athletes and their stories

Carey Price — NHL player for the Montreal Canadiens — was born in B.C. to a mother who is a former chief of Ulkatcho First Nation.

His family used to fly him back and forth to games, which defeats the stereotype of Indigenous youth not being supported in their communities, said Paraschak.

In the Windsor area, Olympic boxer Mary Spencer is from the Cape Croker First Nation.

Mary Spencer holds eight national titles in boxing, five Pan American titles and three world titles. (CBC)

Celebrating athletes

Even though they're all sports, Paraschak said there's an Indigenous sport system and a mainstream one — like how sports for people with disabilities is in a different system.

The Indigenous sport system refers to sports and events organized by and for Indigenous people — like the Arctic Winter Games.

"In the same way, the Aboriginal sport system is a whole separate sport system most people know nothing about," said Paraschak.

She hopes her work could help address the gap in people's knowledge.

The symposium, Telling Stories of Race and Sports in Canada, is held at the University of Windsor campus from Friday to Saturday.