Tony Cote. Photo courtesy of Manfred Joehnck.

Forty-three years ago, Cote First Nation Chief, Tony Cote, decided First Nations youth needed something like an annual competition to help build friendships, character and purpose.

To help make that happen, he founded the Saskatchewan First Nations Summer Games in 1974. Cote was back at the games in Regina yesterday for the closing ceremonies and to receive the honour of having the games named after him, both the winter and summer Saskatchewan First Nations Games.

He says he is gratified to see the event grow over the years. Cote says in the early 1970’s, he could see the need for such an event.

“There was not much going on then in the athletic and sporting areas,” he said. “So I thought, why don’t I try to promote an annual event like First Nations Summer Games, and here we are today, and we have them every year.”

He adds, he still loves to see the young Indigenous athletes compete. Cote’s family, including his grandson, who is now Chief of the Cote First Nation, joined him on the main stage yesterday when he was honoured.

The first games had a budget of $100,000 and attracted about 500 athletes. The budget is now $1.2 million, with more than 3,500 athletes competing.

The final medals were handed out yesterday. Meadow Lake Tribal Council was declared the overall winner. Team Woodland came in second, just 12 points behind the leader, while Touchwood Agency Tribal Council placed third.

The closing ceremonies were held on the front lawn of the First Nations University of Canada in Regina.