IN­DIGE­NOUS GAMES:

Hamil­ton has big role as western hub of Toronto-based North Amer­i­can com­pe­ti­tion in July

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - STEVE MILTON smil­ton@thes­pec.com| 905-526-3268 @mil­to­natthes­pec

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.

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