Hamilton has big role as western hub of Toronto-based North American competition in July
Hamilton will play a big role in the North American Indigenous Games, which are coming to southern Ontario in mid-July.
The city was not part of the original bid, yet after a closer evaluation, organizers decided to expand the footprint.
“Some of the venues there made real sense, so we expanded to a western hub,” says Marcia Trudeau, CEO of the Toronto-based NAIG 2017. “We already had lacrosse at Six Nations, which certainly makes sense.”
Some 2,000 indigenous athletes will be housed at McMaster University for the games, which run from July 16 to 23. That will make it easier to get to lacrosse at Six Nations and Harry Howell Arena, softball at Turner Park, 3-D archery at the Hamilton Angling and Hunting Association, paddling at the Welland International Flatwater Centre and soccer across the road at Ron Joyce Stadium.
Originally, all 5,000 athletes were to be housed at York University, where there will be a cultural village. But with the establishment of the western hub, games organizers want to put a second cultural village at McMaster. Last month, they appealed to the city’s audit, finance and administration committee for $100,000 in support funds and another $150,000 of in-kind services. That request was referred to the city’s grant applications staff.
“Culture is just as important as the sports in these games,” Trudeau says. “And we want to give the athletes at the western hub the same access they have (at York): songs, indigenous food, dance, performance arts, access to elders and traditional-knowledge keepers. We envision two cultural sites.”
The games were awarded to the Aboriginal Sport and Wellness Council of Ontario and the City of Toronto in June 2015. In recent years, the host site has tended to alternate between the U.S. and Canada but, according to Trudeau, the Americans weren’t interested in hosting this year, opening the door for an Ontario bid. The last games were in Regina in 2014.
The operating budget for the games 2017 host society is $10.1 million. The federal and provincial governments are each contributing $3.5 million and the City of Toronto is anteing up $400,000. Sponsorships — and, potentially, a grant from Hamilton — will make up the rest. Arguably, the North American Indigenous Games is the first large-scale legacy beneficiary of the 2015 Pan Am Games. Many of the Pan Am sites, including the flatwater course and McMaster’s residences, will be in use again this summer.
“One of those things we like to think is very unique to our games is the access we have to Pan Am venues,” Trudeau says. “Those venues, and much of the footprint of the Pan Ams, we’re using. The pool in Scarborough is one of the best in the world. To provide the indigenous youth of North America access to these kinds of facilities may be a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
As happened with the Pan Am Games, North American Indigenous Games 2017 will honour the homelands where the games take place. That involves five groups, including the Six Nations of the Grand River and the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation.