Chief and family cheer on Sask. golfer Greyden Louison at Indigenous Games
16-year-old says he wants to 'do a good job, represent my community and have fun' at NAIG
At 11 o'clock, the sun was already hanging high in the sky looking over Humber Valley Golf Course in Etobicoke Ont. People began gathering around the first tee-off area as the North American Indigenous Games golf tournament began Tuesday.
"It means a lot to me having this many people here to support me," said Greyden Yee Louison, who is representing the Kahkewistahaw First Nation on Team Saskatchewan in the U17 men's golf division. "I hope I finish strong."
The 16-year-old said he doesn't feel nervous before he starts, but expects he might once he steps onto the tee.
This is his first time in Toronto and his first time competing at NAIG.
"I hope I can bring home a medal, but just want to do a good job, represent my community and have fun," he said.
Louison had a lot of support with him at Tuesday's tournament. His grandparents, Amanda Louison and Lionel (Urban) Louison, flew in from Regina to watch him compete. His mom will be joining them on Wednesday for the remainder of the tournament.
He was also joined by Kahkewistahaw Chief Evan Taypotat and two other council members, Michael Bob and Cory Alexson.
The Kahkewistahaw Cree reserve has 1,500 members but only 600 of them live on reserve. Louison and his family are among those on-reserve.
"He's the most humble kid, he would never tell you that he's a championship curler, or that he's a straight-A student," Taypotat said of Greyden Louison, who competes in curling, volleyball and football as well as golf.
Taypotat said he has known Louison for a long time because before he became chief, he was the principal at the teen's school.
While Louison is the only member from the reserve who is competing in Toronto this year, there have been others in past years.
"NAIG gives Indigenous kids a chance to compete at a national level," Taypotat said.
"The problem with major provincial teams is that the competition is so fierce — which is good in a sense, but there aren't many Indigenous kids that are on those teams."
Louison is a great role model for the rest of the kids in his community. He takes part in all of the sports that are offered on the reserve.
The Kahkewistahaw reserve really focuses on sports as a way to get the children active and involved in the community, according to the chief.
"It's the carrot that we dangle in front of them," said Taypotat.
'A positive place'
Lionel (Urban) Louison, who is a survivor of the residential school system, said he's proud of Greyden, adding that it's nice to see his grandson have opportunities he never had growing up.
"It's nice to come out and see the kids compete," the elder Louison said.
A highlight of this year's North American Indigenous Games is #Team88, the campaign by NAIG to highlight the 88th Call To Action in the Truth and Reconciliation report. It calls for greater support for Indigenous athletes through events like the Indigenous games.
"NAIG is important because it shows that Indigenous people are just like everyone else," says Taypotat. "And it brings people together, not just Indigenous and non-Indigenous but also our youth from other nations."
There are a lot of volunteers who aren't Indigenous people, but it brings everyone closer together. NAIG also brings together Indigenous youth from different nations across North America, giving them a chance to network and make friends that they might not have had the chance to connect with otherwise.