1st national Indigenous team to take to gridiron at women's U18 tackle football championship
Football Canada hopes to create more national Indigenous teams in other divisions
This year's women's U18 tackle football Canadian championship in Ottawa will include for the first time a national Indigenous team.
The inaugural tournament in 2022 hosted a field of five teams while the 2023 version is now up to eight teams, with the national Indigenous team joining teams from Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Quebec and two teams from Ontario, July 23-29.
"This is historic," said Kevin Hart, a Football Manitoba Hall of Famer.
"It's never been done by Hockey Canada or any of the other national sports organizations to bring us as Indigenous peoples within their own systems to treat us as equals and say 'Yes, we're going to give you a national team."
Hart, who is from Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation and served two terms as Manitoba Regional Chief for the Assembly of First Nations, spent the last two years working toward a team.
Football Canada created a diversity task force made up of coaches, officials and current and former CFL players in order to address diversity, inclusion and equity on the Canadian football scene. One of the task force's major goals was to create the team.
Shannon Donovan, executive director of Football Canada, said the new Indigenous team "touches on two things," increasing Indigenous representation and the participation of women and girls in the sport.
Selection of 22 players for the team will take place at regional tryouts across Canada, allowing Indigenous players to try out for their provincial team or the national Indigenous team simultaneously.
There are plans for the national Indigenous team program to continue in other divisions of the women's game as well as the men's side for both tackle football and flag football.
- A previous version of this story said that 40 players would make up the first national Indigenous team. In fact, the number of players is 22. This story has been updated to reflect this.Mar 06, 2023 6:52 PM ET