Runners toe start line at North American Indigenous Games

Evan John

Young track and cross-country athletes from across North America are toeing the start line this week in a celebration of culture, tradition and competition, with the long-anticipated arrival of the North American Indigenous Games in Halifax (Kjipuktuk) and Millbrook First Nation in Nova Scotia.

More than 4,800 athletes, managers, coaches and mission staff are participating in the games, the largest multi-sport and culture event hosted in the history of Atlantic Canada. Athletics is one of 16 sports featured at the games, with others including three traditional sports—kayak/canoe, archery and lacrosse—as well as baseball, swimming, golf and wrestling, among others.

The weeklong event, which officially launched Sunday night with opening ceremonies at Halifax’s Scotiabank Centre, kicks off four days of action in the 14U, 16U and 19U categories Tuesday with 80m, 100m and 800m events. On Wednesday, athletes will compete in the 300m, 400m, 1,200m, 1,500m and 4x100m relay events. Track action wraps up Thursday with the 150m, 200m, 2,000m, 3,000m and 4×1,000m events, before shifting to cross-country competition on Friday, with the 2K, 3K, 6K and 8K races.

Usually held every four years, this year’s North American Indigenous Games are the first to be held since 2017, with COVID-19 restrictions forcing a delay. “This evening has been a long time coming and we’re so proud to see the excitement and pride on the faces of these youth as they get the chance to proudly represent their home Nations and regions,” said Fiona Kirkpatrick Parson, chair of the 2023 North American Indigenous Games, at Sunday’s official opening. “Over the next week we can’t wait to show the participants of these 756 Nations the warm and welcoming nature of the (host) Mi’kmaq Nation.”

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Pascale St-Onge, Canada’s sports minister, said Sunday that the Games “embody all the best qualities of sport as they bring us together to promote inclusion and respect. Sport is an incredible tool for engagement and empowerment and teaches young athletes skills that will enrich their everyday lives.”

Events are being broadcast live on the Games’ official YouTube channel. A complete schedule of this week’s events is available here.

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