Games organizers hope to end confusion

Jason Kerr
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Organizers for the Saskatchewan First Nations Winter Games met with the media yesterday to clear up some misunderstandings and introduce their mascot.

“We wanted to do a joint media release and press conference for the city of Prince Albert, and surrounding communities, to let them know that there are two games that are going on here in the city,” SFNWG Manager Mel Mercredi says.

The confusion stems from the fact that Prince Albert will host two youth winter games events this year.  The Saskatchewan Winter Games, which run from Feb. 16-22, and the Saskatchewan First Nation Winter Games, which go from April 20-25.  Adding to the confusion are the anniversary ceremonies.  Both events are celebrating 40 years this year, which has created lots of confusion.

“The city of Prince Albert is having two games: the Saskatchewan Games and the Saskatchewan First Nations Games,” says Brian Hardlotte, a Prince Albert Grand Council vice-chief who spoke at the gathering.  “Let’s make that clear.”

Despite the confusion, Hardlotte, like other SFNWG organizers and representatives, think having the two events in the city is great.

“The economic spin-off that we’re going to see, in these two games, that’s very good for the city,” he says.

Like it’s provincial counterpart, the First Nations Games features young athletes from around the province competing in a number of events.  Organizers expect to have more than 4,000 athletes, coaches, chaperones and fans arrive in Prince Albert.

“I think these games are a great opportunity for the city of P.A. to showcase what a beautiful city we have,” says the Grand Council’s other vice-chief Joseph Tsannie.  “Not only that, it’s an opportunity for our top First Nations athletes within the province of Saskatchewan to come to P.A. and compete at a higher level.”

Giving opportunities to youth is essentially what the First Nations Games are all about, especially for youth in the north.

“A lot of these kids from the north, from our communities, don’t really get an opportunity to come to a major event like this and to compete at a higher level,” Tsannie says.

Athletic events aren’t the only opportunities available.  There will also be cultural competitions and demonstrations, which is something Mercredi says they hope to share with the community.

He also says he hopes people will come watch the athletes.  They’re using this competition as a springboard for the North American Indigenous Games to be held in Regina in July.

“This is almost a stepping-stone for the North American Indigenous Games as well.  A lot of the athletes that are competing will be competing in Regina for the North American Indigenous Games from July 20-27, so that’s something you’ll be hearing a lot about,” he says.

Of course, at the end they also introduced their new mascot, who has yet to be officially named, but is affectionately referred to as ‘Trapper.’  Organizers say they’re going to hold a vote or contest to decide the name later.

This is the first time Prince Albert has held the First Nation Winter Games since 2001.  Of the 13 regions present, two are from Prince Albert and area.  This is the 6th time Prince Albert has hosted these games.  The first was in 1981.

Organizations: Prince Albert, Saskatchewan First Nations Games, North American Saskatchewan Games Prince Albert Grand Council

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, P.A., Regina

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