In­dige­nous Cana­di­ans get spot­light at Games


VAN­COU­VER — Though she wore it around her neck, Clara Hughes said that hum­ming­bird pen­dant was ac­tu­ally the wings on her skates in th­ese Games.

The neck­lace was a gift of the fam­ily of Te­wa­nee Joseph, chief of the Four Host First Na­tions.

“This was given to me by my friends,” Hughes said, show­ing off the neck­lace Thurs­day. “They gave it to me at a ‘brush­ing-off’ cer­e­mony I was hon­ored to have a week be­fore th­ese Games.”

Hughes won bronze in women’s long-track speed­skat­ing 5,000 me­ters Wed­nes­day, adding to gold, sil­ver and bronze in other Win­ter Games and two cycling bronze in the 1996 Sum­mer Games. She is the only ath­lete from any coun­try to win mul­ti­ple medals, Sum­mer and Win­ter.

“I credit this with giv­ing me some wings on the ice,” she said of the sil­ver hum­ming­bird, “just that sense of peace and strength through th­ese Games.”

The Win­ter Olympics are tak­ing place on the shared tra­di­tional ter­ri­to­ries of Lil’wat, Musqueam, Squamish and TsleilWau­tuth First Na­tions.

The Van­cou­ver Olympic Or­ga­niz­ing Com­mit­tee says sup­port of the Four Host First Na­tions, as they are des­ig­nated col­lec­tively, played an im­por­tant part in the IOC award­ing the Games to Van­cou­ver. And th­ese abo­rig­i­nal na­tions, as well as oth­ers across Canada, played a prom­i­nent role in the open­ing cer­e­mony — but not in the Games them­selves.

To­day, Caro­line Calve is sched- uled to com­pete for Canada in par­al­lel gi­ant slalom snow­board­ing. She is one-six­teenth Al­go­nquin, ow­ing to her pa­ter­nal great­grand­mother. She was not aware of her con­nec­tion grow­ing up.

“I have na­tive her­itage,” she wrote in an e-mail, “but am not of First Na­tion sta­tus.”

Calve has em­braced her na­tive her­itage. She is a mem­ber of the First Na­tion Snow­board team and ap­peared at an event be­fore the Games where Nike an­nounced it would in­clude Canada in a pro­gram it has run in the USA for more than 10 years that sup­ports sports in na­tive com­mu­ni­ties.

“We need First Na­tion ath­letes in the Games for our par­tic­i­pa­tion to be com­plete,” said Jan­ice Forsyth, an ex­pert in abo­rig­i­nal sport at the Uni­ver­sity of West­ern On­tario and a mem­ber of Fisher River Cree. “Aus­tralia is way ahead of us on this.”

Ted Nolan, an Ojibwa who is a for­mer coach of the NHL’s Buf­falo Sabres and New York Is­lan­ders, hopes that Olympic at­ten­tion will lead to more op­por­tu­ni­ties in sports for First Na­tion youth.

“The world will hope­fully see that a lot of our com­mu­ni­ties are in third-world con­di­tions,” Nolan wrote in an e-mail. “Canada does need to help. . . . A lot of our youth feel left out. I do be­lieve we have top-notch ath­letes, but un­for­tu­nately they do not have op­por­tu­ni­ties to com­pete.”

Chris Rudge, CEO of the Cana­dian Olympic Com­mit­tee, said his group works di­rectly with na­tional fed­er­a­tions, not with par­tic­u­lar con­stituen­cies, but he said he en­cour­ages fed­er­a­tions to do all they can to help.

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