The fifth annual Alberta Indigenous Games (AIG) took place at Edmonton’s Callingwood Park from August 15 to August 19.
Master of ceremonies, Stanley Isadore, an actor recognized for his roles in “The Academy” and “Blackstone” TV series, introduced the grand entry of Chiefs, other dignitaries and guests of honour along with athletes, coaches, dancers and flag bearers.
Following the opening prayer, Driftpile Elder, educator, artisan and AIG president Martha Campiou, welcomed everyone to the games.
Guests of honour who spoke at the opening event included Chief Billy Morin of Enoch Cree Nation, Edmonton-McClung MLA Lorne Dach, Edmonton City Councillor Sara Hamilton, Chief Kurt Burnstick of the Alexandra First Nation, and MLA Richard Feehan, Deputy Government House Leader and Minister of Indigenous Relations.
The speakers all expressed their support of the AIG and reiterated how significant the annual games have become for youth in the First Nations community.
Over 70 teams, approximately 800 athletes took part in basketball, ball hockey, volleyball, fast pitch and lacrosse competitions.
In this region, Driftpile First Nation team, the “Driftpile Rebels” comprised of members of Sturgeon Lake and other First Nations communities took home a gold medal in the girls’ intermediate Fast Pitch competition.
Jessina Goodswimmer, a local, all-round athlete, G.P. Vanier student and member of the Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation, played for the Driftpile Rebels at the games.
While the Driftpile Rebels lost their first game in the tournament, they went on to win all subsequent games to win gold.
Following their initial loss, the Rebels went all out, working hard to triumph, playing three back-to-back games the first day and four back-to-back games the following day.
Having prevailed in a number of close games, Driftpile Rebels finally played the formidable Enoch Cree Nation team to win gold.
The Enoch Cree Nation team had not lost a game to that point, which meant the Driftpile Rebels had to play Enoch twice, as every team had to lose two games to be out of the competition.
Goodswimmer, who entered Grade 10 this September played with Team Alberta U16 softball team at the 2017 North American Indigenous Games, an event that hosted over 5,000 participants and 2,000 volunteers, making it the largest sporting and cultural gathering of Indigenous Peoples in North America.
Goodswimmer also played in last year’s Alberta Indigenous Games in Edmonton, as a member of the Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation’s intermediate volleyball team.
“Jessina’s offence and defence and great sportsmanship was a great asset to the team,” says Driftpile Rebels coach Lionel Hamelin.