Young Indigenous athletes from the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the rest of North America will have to wait another year before competing in the North American Indigenous Games. NAIG officials announced March 25 that this year’s games, scheduled to be held in July in Nova Scotia, Canada, have been postponed until 2021.
NAIG joins the endless list of postponements and cancellations around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic that a day earlier forced the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics to be pushed back until 2021.
“The collective goal for all of us at this time is to keep everyone safe and healthy,” Tex Marshall, president of NAIG 2020, said in a statement. “To abide by the recommendations and guidance of the Nova Scotia government and its healthcare professionals is critical to slowing and eliminating this pandemic, even if it means the delay of something amazing. We at NAIG 2020 are proud of Nova Scotia’s remarkable and unfaltering efforts during this crisis.”
In an announcement on its Facebook page, NAIG explained that athletes who would have become too old to compete in the rescheduled 2021 Games will still be eligible.
The plan is to keep the Games in Nova Scotia. The event has been billed as “the largest multi-sport and cultural event ever to be held in Atlantic Canada.” The venues are in in Kjipuktuk (Halifax), Millbrook First Nation, and Aldershot.
“The magic of the Games, even before they happened, had already begun to reverberate throughout the beautiful city of Halifax,” Dale Plett, President of the NAIG Council, said in a statement. “The focus now is for NAIG Council to work with the Host Society, NAIG funding partners and other key stakeholders to deliver the Games, in Halifax, in 2021.”
NAIG was created in 1990. It is held about every three to four years with cities in Canada and the U.S. serving as hosts. Recent hosts were Regina, Saskatchewan (2014) and Toronto (2017). It usually draws about 5,000 Indigenous athletes ages 13 to 19 who compete in 16 sports, including archery, baseball, basketball, golf, riflery, soccer, softball, track and field, swimming, volleyball and wrestling. It also serves as a cultural celebration with Indigenous vendors, musicians and pro athletes in attendance. Native American star Taboo, from the Black Eyed Peas, performed for the athletes at the 2017 opening ceremonies. Seminole athletes also met NHL player Jordan Nolan (First Nations Ojibwe), a three-time Stanley Cup champion.
Seminole athletes have represented the Tribe and Florida throughout the years. In 2017, Seminoles Connor Thomas (archery), Sammy Micco Sanchez (wrestling) and Santiago “Eecho” Billie (rifle shooting) won gold medals and Aubee Billie (archery) won a bronze medal.