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Sport and culture celebrated in Denver North American Indigenous Games 2006.


The excitement of the thousands of spectators gathered for the ceremonies that would kick off the 2006 North American Indigenous Games The North American Indigenous Games is a multi-sport event involving indigenous North American athletes staged intermittently since 1990. The Games are managed by the Native American Sports Council, Inc., a non-profit member organization of the United States Olympic Committee.  (NAIG NAIG North American Indigenous Games
NAIG North American Interest Group
) in Denver intensified as the 7,000-plus athletes representing 31 delegations from across Canada Across Canada was an afternoon program that formerly aired on The Weather Network. The segment ran from early 1999 until mid 2002. The show ran from 3:00PM ET until 7:00 PM ET.  and the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area.  streamed on to INVESCO Field on July 2.

As emcees Waneek Horn-Miller and Drew Lacapa welcomed each team into the 1.8-million sq. ft stadium, the crowd roared their appreciation as athletes proudly waved and shouted their team names with enthusiasm.


Quarter-sized rain drops fell on to the heads of the 10,000 Indigenous athletes and coaches and 45,000 volunteers and spectators, but the rain didn't seem to dampen the celebratory mood. Instead, it was as if everyone in the stadium soaked up the rain and used it to reenergize, which resulted in a full volume round of applause for the athletes, which positively left everyone with goose bumps goose bumps or goose pimples: see gooseflesh.  of joy.

As the rain subsided, Chairman of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe INDIAN TRIBE. A separate and distinct community or body of the aboriginal Indian race of men found in the United States.
     2. Such a tribe, situated within the boundaries of a state, and exercising the powers of government and, sovereignty, under the national
, Clement J. Frost took to the stage and welcomed everyone to the sixth games, which took place from July 2 to July 9.

"The Creator blessed us today with this moisture to wish us well," said Frost. "I hope you except this moisture to help you with the games to come. We thank you all for being here and we support you."


As a representative of one of the host sponsors for the games--the Southern Ute and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribes
Also see: Ute Tribe.

The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe is one of three federally-recognized tribes of the Ute Nation, mostly of the Weeminuche Band. They are headquartered at Towaoc, Colorado.
 pledged a combine total of $1.2 million as host sponsors of the games--Frost discussed the importance of NAIG to the young participants.

"You show that you are our future leaders Future Leaders is a UK schools-led charitable organisation that aims to widen the pool of talented leaders especially for urban challenging secondary schools. It was founded in March 2006 by Nat Wei, a former founder of Teach First.  just by being here," he said. "You are our wealth, you are our vision and you are our pride, always. I wish all of you well."

Before the opening ceremonies, spectators were entertained by a variety of Aboriginal performances. Visitors were treated to some of the local Denver talent, such as DJ Abel, DJ Tribal Touch and the Denver Native Break Dancers. Also, funny man Don Burnstick kept the crowd amused a·muse  
tr.v. a·mused, a·mus·ing, a·mus·es
1. To occupy in an agreeable, pleasing, or entertaining fashion.

 with his Native humor, focusing on First Nations people, their habits, likes and dislikes. Burnstick is a Cree from the Alexander First Nation located on the outskirts of Edmonton.

Also on the opening ceremony schedule was Red Power Squad. This hip hop hip-hop   or hip hop
1. A popular urban youth culture, closely associated with rap music and with the style and fashions of African-American inner-city residents.

2. Rap music.

 group is based in Alberta, and states as a goal their hope to empower youth. Through their gripping performances and motivational speaking they address many issues, including gang lifestyle, dysfunctional families, drug and alcohol abuse, HIV HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), either of two closely related retroviruses that invade T-helper lymphocytes and are responsible for AIDS. There are two types of HIV: HIV-1 and HIV-2. HIV-1 is responsible for the vast majority of AIDS in the United States.  and AIDS, life on the streets to life on the reserve, and the importance of education.

One of the most memorable cultural performances had to be from the Ute Mountain Ute Mountain (or Ute Peak or Sleeping Ute Mountain), is a peak within the Ute Mountains, a small mountain range in the southwestern corner of Colorado. It is on the northern edge of the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation.  Ute Bear Dancers. Just as the cultural performance was being introduced, the sun began to peak as if to welcome them. The Bear Dance is a unique social dance that is meant as a celebration to welcome spring.

Rita King from the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and Kenny Frost, a Southern Ute Tribal member, demonstrated the dance. Both King and Frost have been dancing as partners for 40 years. Approximately 18 dancers took to the field and they positioned themselves in two lines with nine on either side. As the men began to play thick-ribbed sticks on a steel bench, the dancers took their partners and did a two-step back and forth. The Ute Bear Dance is one of the oldest dances that the tribe performs, usually in late May or early June.

"The bear start to wake up," said Frost.

In attendance for opening day was Willie Littlechild Willie Littlechild is a Cree Canadian lawyer. He was the Member of Parliament for Wetaskiwin from 1988 to 1993. As a young man he was a successful athlete who won ten Athlete of the Year Awards. , also of Alberta, whose vision led to the first Indigenous games. Without that vision, athletes, such as Newell Lewey from Wabamaki, Maine, wouldn't have been able to showcase his track and field talents.


Team Maine was one of the smallest teams competing in the games with a total of 14 athletes participating in golf, basketball and track and field. Newell said the medals were not as significant as the whole experience of participating in the games themselves.


"I hope the athletes come out of this with a positive experience," said Lewey, the team's chef de mission. Lewey had a son who would also be competing in the track and field competitions.

"I hope they're competitive, but stressing that's not the important part. The important part is participation and the mingling with other people," he said.


Littlechild's dream for a North American Indigenous Games became a reality in 1990 with the first games held in Edmonton. Three years later in 1993, Prince Albert Prince Albert, city (1991 pop. 34,181), central Sask., Canada, on the North Saskatchewan River. Prince Albert is a commercial and distribution center for a lumbering, gold- and uranium-mining, and mixed-farming area. There are wood-products and meatpacking industries. , Sask. hosted the second games. Littlechild's dream continued in 1995, when the games were held in Blaine, Minnesota Blaine is a city in the state of Minnesota. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 44,942. The city is located mainly in Anoka County, but extends into Ramsey County. . The 1997 NAIG was held in Victoria, B.C. The last time athletes participated in the games was in Winnipeg in 2002.

In 1977, Littlechild spoke of the games at the Annual Assembly of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples The Council of Indigenous Peoples (Chinese: 原住民族委員會, pinyin: yuánzhùmínzú wěiyuánhuì) (sometimes referred to as Council of Aboriginal Affairs  in Sweden.

Littlechild told Windspeaker that the idea to create the games came from personal experiences with sports and the impression that he was left with. He was a multi-sport athlete, though his favorite was baseball. He also competed in high-level hockey and swimming. He said he competed in 10 different other sports, but those three were the highlights of his sports career. As a young athlete, Littlechild won 10 Athlete of the Year Athlete of the Year
  • IAAF World Athlete of the Year
  • ACC Athlete of the Year
  • Associated Press Athlete of the Year
  • U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year
  • United Press International Athlete of the Year Award

"Each of those contributed to me, whether it was in business or in education," said the former Member of Parliament for Wetaskiwin. "All of my experiences I owe to sports, therefore I wanted other people to have that opportunity.

"I always tried to think the thought of what would have happened had I not participated in sports. It probably would have been negative," said Littlechild. "I would've been one of those terrible statistics that we here about all of the time."


Littlechild recounts a comment that he heard around the time of the second Indigenous games about Aboriginal people having the highest rate of suicide compared to other populations in the world.


"Three months before the games and three months after the games, there was not one suicide, not one suicide in any Indigenous communities in Canada that I heard of anyways an·y·ways  
adv. Nonstandard
In any case.

Adv. 1. anyways - used to indicate that a statement explains or supports a previous statement; "Anyhow, he is dead now"; "I think they're asleep; anyhow, they're quiet"; "I
," said Littlechild, the first treaty Indian treaty Indian
n. Canadian
A status Indian belonging to a band that has signed a treaty with the federal government.
 from Alberta to obtain a law degree.


"I thought 'Wow, the games are giving our young people a hope that there is a better future, that they would choose life rather then a negative choice. So, it's experiences like that, I think, that are the real successes of the games."

Littlechild's vision for the games is for athletes, coaches and spectators to share in the multi-sport and culture celebration.

"To support each other in an event like this, I think, is very important and people go away with a feeling, a spirit, that I think keeps them going to face any kind of challenges," said Littlechild.

"It's not just the participation of athletes or of cultural participation, but it's just the inner feeling you get, the pride that you experience. I call it sometimes the winning spirit that we have in all of us, to be able to feel that and to share it with whomever whom·ev·er  
The objective case of whoever. See Usage Note at who.


the objective form of whoever:
 we are with, whether it's family or community. The winning spirit, it's a feeling that it is good to be an Indigenous person and I think that's one of the deepest experiences that one can go away with. It keeps them going in life."

More to NAIG than just medals

Of course the teams participating in the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) wanted to win as many medals as they could for their regions, but athletes, coaches and supporters say there is much more to the games than the hardware.

"I told the kids to go out there and have fun and build relationships with the other youth because that's what it's all about," said Duane Waukau, chef de mission for Team Wisconsin. "For sure we want to win the medal, but I want the kids to enjoy being here. Being at INVESCO Field, I'd say, is the number one experience because you're coming in with all of the Native youth in the country and that will be an awesome feeling to be part of."

Team Wisconsin has athletes competing in basketball, baseball, volleyball and athletics. This is Wisconsin's fourth time competing in the games. The baseball team took gold and two bronzes, the volleyball team served up a bronze medal and the basketball team dunked silver and two bronzes during the games held in Winnipeg in 2002.

"The kids are holding their own," said Waukau. "There should be some very good competition this year because there are a lot more U.S. teams, so I'm really looking forward to that."

The NAIG is a multi-sport competition for youth between the ages of 13 and 19 and adults 20 years and older.

Thirteen-year-old, Leona Cook, Woodland Cree The Woodland, or Swampy Cree, comprise the largest Amerindian group in northern Alberta. They are Algonquin linguistic stock. Prior to the 18th century, their territory was around Hudson Bay as far north as Churchill and east of James Bay to Lac Mistassini.  from Saskatchewan, sees the advantages that the games provide. She has met a number of athletes from other regions that she says are very interesting. As one of the players with the most volleyball experience, Cook said her volleyball team had only three practices together before attending the games, however they won their first game against Kansas.

"We all thought that we wouldn't win because we were looking at the other girls and they looked good in practice," said Cook. "We were surprised that we won."

During the first day of basketball and volleyball competition at the Gold Crown Field House, Windspeaker caught up with Minnesota's basketball Coach Daniel Ninham. His midget boys team had just won their second game, but coach Ninham appeared calm and collected, as if expecting the win.

When asked if there was a specific team that he was maybe concerned about he said "Every team that we play against we're concerned about. It doesn't matter who it is."

He expected his team to do well, but said the games highlight more than just taking the medals home. "The main awareness of the Indigenous people all coming together is mostly important," he said.

"It was emotional and powerful in the stadium yesterday and it's emotional and powerful every time we come out here on the court," said Ninham. "In a sense, it's like our own little powwow powwow

American Indian ceremony or gathering of various kinds. Powwows originally were healing ceremonies, but the word could also refer to exuberant celebrations, with dancing and singing, of success in hunting or victory in battle.
. You have the game players here in the middle and then on the outside circle you have the spectators. So, it's just really invigorating in·vig·or·ate  
tr.v. in·vig·or·at·ed, in·vig·or·at·ing, in·vig·or·ates
To impart vigor, strength, or vitality to; animate: "A few whiffs of the raw, strong scent of phlox invigorated her" 
 to really participate in this capacity. I see us blending in with the other 30 teams that are here. We're all diverse but all multi-Indigenous."

Sixteen-year-old swimmer Bree Menge views the games only as a stepping stone to opportunities like obtaining a scholarship.

Willie Littlechild, the founder of NAIG, agreed that the games can be used as a way to further an athlete's goals.

"Yes, these games are a stepping stone for some who are wanting to go to higher games like the Pan-American Games Pan-American games, amateur athletic competition among representatives of countries in the Western Hemisphere. The competition, held every four years, follows the organization and eligibility rules of the Olympic games and is held in the year before the Olympics in  or the Commonwealth Games Commonwealth games, series of amateur athletic meets held among citizens of countries in the Commonwealth of Nations. Originated (1930) as the British Empire games, the series is held every four years and is patterned after the Olympic games; women have participated  or the Olympics," said Littlechild.

"However, for others, the games are also the highlight of their career. This to them is the Olympic games Olympic games, premier athletic meeting of ancient Greece, and, in modern times, series of international sports contests. The Olympics of Ancient Greece

Although records cannot verify games earlier than 776 B.C.
. They don't want to go to any other games. This Indigenous games to them is the highest level they want to aspire to aspire to
verb aim for, desire, pursue, hope for, long for, crave, seek out, wish for, dream about, yearn for, hunger for, hanker after, be eager for, set your heart on, set your sights on, be ambitious for
, so, that's also very good because it acknowledges a feeling by our people that these are our games. These are our Olympics."

Editors note: As of press time July 12 the results of the games were not available.


The North American Indigenous Games competition has been described as a big powwow. Certainly cultural dance had an important role to play in the celebration of the games in Denver on July 2 during opening ceremonies. Photos by Laura Stevens

By Laura Stevens

Windspeaker Staff Writer
COPYRIGHT 2006 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
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Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Stevens, Laura
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Aug 1, 2006
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