As thousands of people from across the continent descend on Nova Scotia for the North American Indian Games, the spotlight will not only be on athletic competition but also on indigenous culture.
NAIG 2023 President George (Tex) Marshall of Eskasoni said the opportunity for the Mi’kmaq to share their language, ceremony, traditions and culture with the world is just as important as the competitions.
“We’ve basically set the standard that our goal is 50 percent culture, 50 percent Games and we’re staying true to that,” said Marshall, who has been dreaming of hosting the games in Halifax for more than two decades.
“It’s an incredible opportunity to share culture among the tribes of North America.”
This will be the first time the Games have been held in Atlantic Canada. Marshall said it is an opportunity for the Mi’kmaq to share their history with other indigenous groups.
Language will also be a key part of cultural exchange, Marshall said. There are more than 460 signs installed in three languages: English, French, and Mi’kmaw.
Many nations will come with their own language, he said. Others have lost their language and NAIG could be an “awakening” for them.
“It could be the catalyst for change,” Marshall said.
Kjipuktuk is ready for you Turtle Island!
A special thanks to Elder Billy Joe for teaching our Culture Chair the traditional way of making Mi’kmaq Wikuoms (Wigwams). pic.twitter.com/Y35khRHDyS
He NAIG Cultural Village on Halifax Common It will have cultural events, a market and performances from Saturday to July 22.
Events held there include traditional cooking demonstrations by chef Ray Bear and traditional medicine by Tuma Young, an attorney, ethnobotanist, and professor of Mi’kmaw studies at Cape Breton University.
The town will also have the game of walesbeadwork, quillwork, drum making, basketry, storytelling and leather tanning.
The market on Halifax Common will have vendors from across the continent, about half of them from the region.
Angie Gillis, executive director of the Mainland Mi’kmaq Confederation, said she is looking forward to seeing how the games pan out, seeing everyone come together and the impact of the cultural village.
“They’re going to see a part of who we are as Mi’kmaq,” Gillis said. “I’ve been part of those who have been to Winnipeg and Toronto, so seeing how we put that together will be fun.”
NAIG President Fiona Kirkpatrick-Parsons said the games will try to bridge cultures.
“It’s an opportunity for everyone to come together and learn about each other’s cultures,” he said.
“The Mi’kmaw culture will be…the predominant host culture, but there will be other cultures represented. And we want everyone to feel welcome to come and learn and participate.”
Chief Bob Gloade of the Millbrook First Nation, which will host the 3D archery competition, agrees on the importance of culture at the event.
He said the Games will be a showcase for the region’s indigenous percussionists, dancers and performers. She said it will be moving for him to welcome athletes and delegates from across the continent.