North American Indigenous Games

'Motivated me to make it to these games': Family a familiar theme at Indigenous Games

Kiana Joseph, a member of Team Saskatchewan's 19U female soccer team at the North American Indigenous Games, says soccer is part of her familial history.

Team Saskatchewan 19U female soccer team defeats Team Nova Scotia 5-0

Robyn Black, Paige Masuskapoe, Echo Desjarlais and Kiana Joseph are part of Team Saskatchewan. (Creeden Martell/CBC)

Soccer is a part of Kiana Joseph's familial history.

Joseph, a member of Team Saskatchewan's 19U female soccer team at the North American Indigenous Games, has been playing the game since she was five or six, she estimates.

"I already had my own cleats and stuff," she recalled of those early years as a member of the Big River First Nation, Sask.

Her older siblings medalled in soccer at the last edition of the Indigenous Games in Regina — her older sister went home with a silver and her older brother gold.

"It kinda just motivated me to make it to these games," Joseph said.

On Wednesday morning, Joseph and the rest of Team Saskatchewan scorched Team Nova Scotia 5-0 at Ron Joyce Stadium on the campus of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont.

Desjarlais celebrates after scoring against Nova Scotia.

It was the second game of NAIG for the team, dropping a 2-1 decision against Team Alberta in the first game of round robin play on Tuesday.

Wednesday's victory had instilled a sense of confidence in Joseph and teammates Robyn Black, Paige Masuskapoe and Echo Desjarlais.

At the Indigenous Games, family seems to be a familiar theme.

Black's journey to the games, like Joseph, started when she was a child.

Black, who is from the Mistawasis First Nation, recalled moments when she would kick the ball around with her father, who has since passed. She said her father had always played soccer and the game was passed on to her.

"He would always tell me to go kick the ball around with him, so I would," she recalled, adding her father started signing her up for other games around her school.

From there, her love of the game grew.

"I never thought of myself as being a soccer player," Desjarlais said, who has been relishing in the chance to travel and meet new people.

A Saskatchewan fan cheers the team on early in the game. (Creeden Martell/CBC)

Desjarlais, who is from Regina, said she has been playing for about eight years. She signed up one day after school and has been playing ever since.

"At first, I never knew the game. Like when I went into the first game, I didn't even know what to do — I was lost," Desjarlais recalled.

Desjarlais considers herself a versatile player, being able to play whatever positions they need her to. She scored twice against Nova Scotia on Wednesday.

Masuskapoe, who is from Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation, said she has been playing for about 11 years and said it was her family who got her into the sport.

"I wasn't really into soccer either," she recalled. "Like, I just didn't find no passion for it."

Masuskapoe said her mother had been playing since she was a child. Both of her parents had played and eventually it passed on to her.

Now, 2017 is her first and last time delving into the Indigenous Games — and it's the same for many members of the team.

Team seeking gold medal

When asked if Saskatchewan is going home with a medal, there is no hesitation when answering.

"Gold," Black said.

On Thursday, Saskatchewan will once again play Alberta. For a chance at the top prize, they'll have to come out victorious in the rematch.

"We have a good, strong team," Joseph adds.

For Wednesday, however, the rematch isn't taking up their attention. After the game, Black said they were going shopping.

After that, other members of the team are going to soak up the sight of Niagara Falls.

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