Good-natured competition as the Traditional Games Championship returns to the NWT
Hundreds of students from across the NWT flocked to Sir John Franklin High School in Yellowknife for the Traditional Games Championship last weekend.
Organized by the Aboriginal Sports Circle NWT, the championship schedule was packed with games such as Snow Snake, Pole Push, Arm Pull and High Kick. Participants between the ages of 10 and 12 took part in eight different events over the course of the weekend – a mix of Northern and Dene Games.
It is the first time the championship has been pushed forward since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Crystal Catholique, who was the Dene Games official during the championship, said the games help prepare children to compete in other events such as the Indigenous Summer Games and the Arctic Winter Games.
“They get so competitive and just love teaching the next groups going forward,” she said.
Catholique was there to cheer on her 12-year-old son, who is in his final year to compete in the Games. She said she also has nieces and nephews in the competition.
“It’s amazing to watch your own kids and you just get this excitement like all the kids are yours,” she said. “It was crazy — I won’t have a voice in the morning because of all the cheering and screaming … Being an officer and trying to cheer at the same time is definitely hard, but it’s so much fun.”
Greyson Catholique, who competed for Mildred Hall School in Yellowknife, said winning at the Games doesn’t matter – it’s about having fun.
His favorite event was pole push.
“It is so much fun. You see people fall and you fall,” he said, laughing. “It’s competitive but fun at the same time. I love it.”
Carson Roche, events manager for the Aboriginal Sports Circle NWT, said 20 teams from across the NWT competed.
He said competitors were excited to be competing in the championship for the first time in years.
“You can tell they’ve been waiting for this event for a while… Some of the communities are making this their only trip this year to compete,” he said. “So they know they’re practicing and they’re really looking forward to coming.”
He said some communities, like Sambaa K’e, participated in the championship for the first time this year.
“It’s pretty crazy to see all the different cultures here, all the kids. They make new friends and it’s quite a wild weekend,” he said.
The winners of the tournament – Yellowknife’s William McDonald Middle School – will travel to Juneau, Alaska, in early April for the traditional game championship.
Roche said that’s new this year. He learned about the Alaskan Championship when an Alaskan friend of his came to the NWT Indigenous Summer Games.
“We found additional funds in the budget,” he said. “I’m super excited to bring the winning team to Juneau and play in pretty much the same games.”