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Keewaytinook Okimakanak students participate in first Winter Indigenous Games

Published: March 1, 2017

BY JILL WOOLLEY

Fun and friendship were the winners at an event planned as a competition between schools. From Feb. 23 to 25, a group of 42 elementary school students from four remote First Nation communities came together to participate in modern and traditional events.

Students in Grades 4 to 8 from the communities of Fort Severn, Keewaywin and North Spirit Lake First Nations travelled to Deer Lake First Nation located 175 km north of Red Lake to participate in the first Keewaytinook Okimakanak Board of Education Winter Indigenous Games.

“As a developing board we want to give our students every opportunity to be involved in activities like any other school in our province,” said KOBE Director of Education Darrin Potter.

On Feb. 24, students were divided into teams and worked together and individually to complete challenges at four events: snaring, ice fishing, orienteering and shelter building.

Grade 6 student Cherilynn Moose from North Spirit Lake First Nation said she liked the ice fishing event. “I didn’t catch anything, but I still had fun,” she said.

KOBE sponsored the games and each school was provided a $2,500 travel subsidy.

“A big challenge was finding the resources to do this in terms of travel dollars,” said Potter. “We made a decision to find ways to support this within our programs,” he said.

Each school could invite up to 16 students and two adult chaperone participants.

Deer Lake Elder Saggius Rae’s granddaughter was chosen to represent the school. Rae has taught his grandchildren traditional pursuits and was asked to assist with the snaring event.

“I want our children to know how we used to do it,” said Rae. “I think [the games] are a great idea.”

“I like it because it’s something different,” said Deer Lake First Nation School principal Stephan Doyon about the games. “It is a chance to reconnect the school to more traditional activities and to make a connection between schools and other kids.”

Prizes were awarded to teams for each event. Students also received a tuque and a medal to commemorate their participation.

While the event centered on friendly competition, KOBE student retention lead Tom Doherty, explained one of the goals was for the students to share their commonalities and create friendships.

“The purpose of the whole event is to bring the schools together to create a sense of community,” said Doherty.

“It was fun. It’s awesome here!” said Leticia Burke, a Grade 6 student from Fort Severn First Nation at the end of the competitions. “It’s really fun the way [they] do stuff here, the way people are so nice here.”

By the end of the games, Burke had already become Facebook friends with students from the other schools and was asking when the next event would take place.

(seen above) Students participate in the snowshoeing and orienteering event at the KOBE Winter Indigenous Games.

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