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Aboriginal Sports Circle NWT - Traditional Games

Tansi Nîtôtemtik

Call to Action #66 states: “We call upon the federal government to establish multi-year funding for community-based youth organizations to deliver programs on reconciliation, and establish a national network to share information and best practices.”[1]

As discussed previously, there are many ways in which the governments of Canada can establish forms of reconciliation, and one example of this is the implementation and continued practise of traditional games in the Northwest Territories which in turn promotes the spread of traditional Indigenous knowledge from and between nations in the north. The Aboriginal Sports Circle of the NWT (ASCNWT) does just this, by sharing its objectives, as listed below:

“The objectives of the NWT Traditional Games Championships are to:

  1. Increase the number of NWT residents participating in traditional games.

  2. Support athletes with an interest in traditional games and who wish to pursue these games at a higher level.

  3. Involve all NWT communities in traditional games events.

  4. Develop and maintain traditional aboriginal culture as well as social components of the traditional games.

  5. Showcase the talents of NWT residents in traditional activities.

  6. Keep our communities safe.”[2]

Objective number 6 is quite interesting, and perhaps it is included because it brings peoples

time and energy towards something of historical and cultural value. To keep communities engaged in important traditions and that in turn provides opportunities for lessons and learning out of the games towards a responsibility towards ourselves and each other. Games that are played during the Traditional Games Championship include snowshoe races, snow snake, Dene stick pull (double-elimination format), wrist hang, and one-foot high kick.[3]

The ASCNWT is defined on their site as an organization that “...empowers and builds capacity within NWT communities, promotes and supports culturally relevant programming, and develops athletes and coaches in a level of involvement they find meaningful. Moving forward, ASCNWT will be focusing on developing programs based on community interest, strengths and desires. We will strive to help communities build capacity in activities that they find beneficial.”[4]

Students who can participate in the ASCNWT have to be within the ages of 10 - 12, but the establishment of the Traditional Games Championship to increase the awareness of Northern and Dene games does not cut off inclusion from others aged under and over.[6] Younger youth can watch and learn during practises, older youth can share experiences, tips, and knowledge. Coaches of an older age can guide and assist the youth participants leading to the championship. The whole process is one of education, culture, inclusion, learning, and most importantly, fun.

Further, beyond the scope of the championship itself, the ASCNWT also grants a scholarship for students who pursue a post-secondary degree related to sport, culture, or recreation.[7] The 2021 recipient was Davina Mcleod from Aklavik, who was a post-secondary hockey player and student at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) in Calgary AB.[8] Mcleod received the scholarship for her volunteerism back home by being a hockey coach for Indigenous youth.

While the ASCNWT is not directly a result of the TRC’s Call to Action #66 since it was established in 1999,[9] it arguably embodies the TRC’s request, and maybe the federal government can invest (further) into the ASCNWT so traditional northern and Dene games can be a catalyst for practical reconciliation. With Call to Action #66, perhaps the ASCNWT can continue to grow into a nationally shared championship where participation from other territories, provinces, and Indigenous nations can become a place to share information and best practises when it comes to sharing traditional northern games.

Regardless of what can hypothetically be done, it is exciting to see the ASCNWT continue to offer such a great program with multifaceted means of outreach. The ASCNWT also serves as a great example of continued reconciliation takes many forms, including sports-based cultural participation like traditional games.

Until next time,

Team ReconciliAction YEG

[1] Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, “Calls to Action”, (2015) at 10, online (pdf): Government of B.C. <>

[2] Aboriginal Sports Circle NWT, “Traditional Games Championships: 2021 Covid-19 Edition”, (2020) online (pdf): Aboriginal Sports Circle NWT <> [Aboriginal Sports Circle]

[3] Ibid.

[4] Aboriginal Sports Circle NWT, “Traditional Games Championships 2022” (2021) online: Aboriginal Sports Circle NWT <> [Traditional Games 2022]

[5] Aboriginal Sports Circle, supra note 2.

[6] CBC News, “Aboriginal sports scholarship winner turns to coaching to make bigger impact in her community”, (Oct. 21, 2021), online: CBC News North <>

[7] Ibid.

[8] Traditional Games 2022, supra note 4.

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