Indigenous

New digital book aims to educate Canadians about Indigenous sport heroes

A digital book exploring the rich history and contributions of Indigenous athletes is now available online.

'It's really important we share our stories,' says 4-time Olympian Sharon Anne Firth

N.W.T.'s Sharon and Shirley Firth, twin sisters who competed in cross-country skiing at four Olympic games are featured in the book. (Canada's Sports Hall of Fame )

A digital book exploring the rich history and contributions of Indigenous athletes is now available online.

Canada's Sports Hall of Fame launched the Indigenous Sport Heroes Education Experience Monday with a virtual event.

Bob Rooney, board chair of Canada's Sports Hall of Fame, said the organization was honoured to present "the rich sporting history of Indigenous Hall of Famers in hopes of prompting conversations about equity and inclusion through the lens of sport."

"The Indigenous Sport Heroes Education Experience aims to educate and inspire youth across Canada, sparking conversation in classrooms and at kitchen tables across this country," he said during the virtual event.

The digital book is a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Call to Action #87, which called upon governments and organizations to provide public education telling the story of Indigenous athletes in history.

The digital book features Indigenous athletes like Paralympian Colette Bourgonje, cross-country skiers Sharon Anne and Shirley Firth, and Waneek Horn-Miller, who was part of Canada's water polo team that won gold at the 1999 Pan Am Games.

"It's really important we share our stories with these young people and also elders and people across the country and to know that they can have a glimmer of hope in themselves," said Sharon Anne Firth during the virtual event. 

Firth and her twin sister Shirley were members of Canada's national cross-country ski team for nearly two decades and competed at four Olympics. 

Part of the book is dedicated to athletes who have won a Tom Longboat Award. The awards were established in 1951 to recognize Indigenous athletes for outstanding contributions to sport in Canada.

Legendary Onondaga runner Tom Longboat won the famed Boston Marathon in 1907. (Charles A. Aylett/Library and Archives Canada )

Lyric Atchison, a member of the Squamish Nation and a 2019 recipient of the Tom Longboat Award, said she hopes this resource will inspire other Indigenous youth to get involved in sports and create their own legacies. 

"We have faced so much adversity and struggle in a climate which constantly serves to tear down, and the amazing people featured in this exhibit have risen above it and inspired people everywhere, demonstrating that despite repeated attempts to erase Indigenous Peoples and culture, we are still here and we are a force to be reckoned with," said Atchison during the virtual event. 

The book will have additional education resources designed for K-12 students and will be available to educators across Canada at no cost. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rhiannon Johnson is an Anishinaabe journalist from Hiawatha First Nation based in Toronto. She has been with the Indigenous unit since 2017 focusing on Indigenous life and experiences throughout Ontario. You can reach her at rhiannon.johnson@cbc.ca and on Twitter @rhijhnsn.

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