Preparations for the 2020 North American Indigenous Games are well underway.
Organizers held a one-year countdown ceremony on July 12 in the host city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
With more than 5,000 Indigenous youth athletes from Canada and the U.S. expected to compete, including from the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the event is being described as the largest sporting event Halifax has ever hosted.
About two dozen Seminoles competed in the 2017 Games in Toronto. Seminole gold medal winners were Santiago “Eecho” Billie (rifle shooting), Sammy Micco Sanchez (wrestling) and Conner Thomas (archery).
Halifax is known as Kjipuktuk to the Mi’kmaq, a First Nations who are Indigenous to the area.
Halifax has a population of about 400,000 and is a vital port for the region on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s located about 500 miles (over land) from Portland, Maine.
Competitions are slated to be held in Halifax and Millbrook First Nation.
Indigenous athletes from the Canadian Maritime provinces participated in the countdown ceremony.
“[The Games are] infused with the cultural side of it, and that’s really what the Games represent to me, it’s really that spirit and beauty of who are as Indigenous People from across the world,” NAIG 2020 CEO Kevin Sandy told APTN National News.
Singer Emma Stevens, 16, whose rendition of The Beatles’ song “Blackbird” in the Mi’kmaq language has garnered more than 1 million YouTube hits in just a few months and received a nod from Paul McCartney during one of his concerts, performed at the ceremony.
Stevens is from Eskasoni First Nation in Nova Scotia.
The Games will be held July 12-18 and feature 15 sports, including 3D archery, athletics (track and field), badminton, baseball, basketball, beach volleyball, canoe/kayak, box lacrosse, golf, rifle shooting, rugby 7’s, soccer, softball, swimming, volleyball and wrestling.
Here’s a letter from George “Tex” Marshall, president of the NAIG Host Society:
Hello Friends and Family,
My name is George “Tex” Marshall. I am from Eskasoni located east of Halifax in the Cape Breton area. I have been building strong friendships through sport my entire life including strengthening young people in my capacity as the Aboriginal Sport Consultant for Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey. My dream has always been to bring the North American Indigenous Games to Nova Scotia, and we’ve done it.
As President of the North American Indigenous Games Host Society, we are excited to have the 2020 North American Indigenous Games (NAIG 2020) held in Kjipuktuk (Halifax), the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq. Our success bringing the games to Nova Scotia was a collaboration between the Government of Nova Scotia, Halifax Regional Municipality and Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey. We’d also like to acknowledge the numerous individuals who shared their expertise and passion throughout the bid process that allowed us to be awarded the biggest multi-sport games in Halifax history.
NAIG 2020 are an amazing Mawio’mi (gathering of people) that will be held July 12th to 19th, 2020 at venues in Halifax Regional Municipality and Millbrook First Nation. Halifax Commons will be abuzz with the cultural village, performances, demonstrations, art and softball. As we get ready for the 5,000 participants joining us next year, we have some exciting activities taking place throughout Nova Scotia. You will see our NAIG 2020 team out in full force, sharing the excitement of the Games and how you can get involved.
On behalf of the 2020 North American Indigenous Host Society we welcome everyone to Mi’kmaki (Mi’kmaw Territory) to celebrate the 2020 North American Indigenous Games.
Friends Made, Games Played, Culture Shared,
George “Tex” Marshall