I’ve been working in sports and recreation here in the Cree Nation for 10 years now, so it seems appropriate that I begin writing about sports for the Nation in the magazine’s 10th anniversary issue.

I am dedicated more than ever to giving our young people opportunities, such as the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships and the North American Indigenous Games, so they will have things to look forward to and do for their health, spirit and pride. This rejuvenated feeling comes from the thoughts (both sad and happy) in remembrance of the young athlete that I had come to know and care for as family – Mark Petawabano. I want all young people to know that there is someone who cares about you. I am here for you any time to assist you in opportunities, guide you through tough times and be a coach and a friend.

National Aboriginal Hockey Championships (NAHC)

The NAHC held its first annual event in 2002 in the Mohawk Territory of Akwesasne, the culmination of large-scale planning. As Chairperson for the National Aboriginal Hockey Program, I wrote the initial bid package for hosting the event as well as the Technical Packages (regulations and guidelines). The National Aboriginal Hockey Championships is a Canadian Hockey Association sanctioned Championship of Bantam / Midget age groups combined with both female and male categories.

In the first ever championships, Manitoba defeated our Eastern Door and North male team to claim the gold medal, while our female team was defeated by Ontario South in the gold medal game. This year the championships were once again held in Akwesasne with our Eastern Door and North male team winning bronze and the female team silver. We are the only region to receive medals in both categories, both years, which is quite an accomplishment. There were many Cree players participating on both teams.

The 2004 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships will be held in Prince George, British Columbia from April 18 -24th. There will be two tryout camps for this event – on the Cree Nation of Mistissini January 22 – 24, 2004 and in the Mohawk community of Kahnawake March 12 – 14. Players will attend either camp, but not both. Applications will be available shortly.

North American Indigenous Games

The North American Indigenous Games is a sport and cultural multi-nation event bringing together Aboriginal people from across North America every three years to celebrate sport and culture. The dream of a large scale Indigenous Games oriented in Reno, Nevada when the National Indian Athletic Association (NIAA) held a meeting of 48 representatives. Canada’s representative was John Fletcher of Edmonton. Here, the dream was born.

A few years later, Alberta’s Willie Littlechild (Cree Nation) introduced the concept of a World Indigenous Games at the World Conference of Indigenous Peoples in Geneva, Switzerland. Representatives of the world’s indigenous peoples were thrilled with the concept. One Brazilian Indian Chief was so moved by the idea that he presented a Sacred Arrow to Willie Littlechild. The same arrow is part of the “Baton” which was used to open the first North American Indigenous Games in Edmonton in 1990.

The next North American Indigenous Games are set for July, 2005, in Buffalo, New York. We are in the process of finalizing an athlete application form as well as forms for communities interested in hosting tryouts and playdowns in 2004 in preparation for the 2005 NAIG. (For more information visit the Aboriginal Sport Circle website at www.aboriginalsport-cirde.ca).

Cree Nation Eenouch

This is the second season for the Cree Nation Eenouch Midget AA Hockey Club. This is a great success for the Cree Nation considering the years spent fighting to achieve recognition as part of the Abitibi-Temiscamingue AA league. The Cree Nation Eenouch is based in Waswanipi and is an all-Aboriginal team made up of players from the Cree Nation as well as other Aboriginal Communities like Weymontachie, Mashteuiatsh and Maniwaki.

This season there are a total of six teams in the league: the Eenouch, Val D’Or, La Sarre, Rouyn-Noranda, Amos and Hearst (Ontario). As of this article the Cree Nation Eenouch have a record of 9 wins and 5 losses (and 2 additional losses in overtime), good enough for third place behind La Sarre and Val D’Or.

Ouje-Bougoumou Senior Hockey & Broomball Tournament

This past weekend the first Senior Hockey & Broomball Tournament took place in Ouje-Bougoumou. There were so many entries that the arena in Chapais was used for games all day Saturday. In all, there were 32 teams participating in six categories for this local invitational. Hats off to the organizing staff as participants and fans were raving positive reviews of the event. The Albert Mianscum Memorial Sports Complex is certainly well equipped to host all participants and spectators.

What event would not be complete without the final game coming down to overtime between the Mistissini Trappers and Waswanipi Nabakatuk. This was a “Class A” event with both teams playing hard for the victory. Congratulations to all participants for making this first event of the year a success.

In upcoming articles, I will continue to update the Cree sports world as well as print a calendar of events for the Cree Regional Events and Entertainment (C.R.E.E.). If you have events that you wish to share information about, place results or photos, or know of an athlete you would like to showcase, contact me at (418) 923-3560 or by email at jeff.spencer2@sympatico.ca