By: Sam Laskaris, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com
The North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) will be returning to the province where they were first launched.
The multi-sport Games were first held in Edmonton back in 1990.
It was announced at this year’s NAIG, which wrapped up this past weekend, that Calgary had been awarded hosting rights for the 2027 Games.
That means almost four decades after the NAIG were first held, they are set for a return to Alberta.
“It’s exciting times for sure,” said Shannon Dunfield, the president of the NAIG Council. “We’re really excited about the return of the Games to Alberta after 37 years.”
Calgary beat out the only other bid that had been submitted to NAIG Council to host the 2027 Games.
That bid was a joint one submitted by the Tk̓’emlúps te Secwépemc (formerly the Kamloops Indian Band) and the city of Kamloops.
There had been some whisperings that a Saskatchewan bid would also materialize.
“There was talk of a potential bid from there but we never officially received anything,” Dunfield said.
Dunfield is glad that a secret that she had to keep, along with other NAIG council members, for more than two months is now out in the open.
The 2027 host site was chosen back in mid-May. But the intention all along was to make that site public during the closing ceremonies at this year’s NAIG, which were primarily staged in Halifax.
Unfortunately, the NAIG closing ceremonies this past week were cancelled due to the large amounts of rainfall Halifax received.
Dunfield said NAIG Council officials then simply decided to announce that Calgary would serve as the Games’ host in 2027 via a press release.
Though the next Games are four years away, Dunfield said those involved in the Calgary bid have commenced their work.
“Planning has already started,” she said. “The NAIG host society is already working on things. And it is setting up its board of directors.”
The Calgary bid was spearheaded by Tourism Calgary officials who worked closely with Tsuut’ina Nation.
Cindy Ady, the CEO of Tourism Calgary, is understandably pleased NAIG will be contested in her city in 2027.
“The Games will inspire thousands of Indigenous youth through sport, and will be a tremendous opportunity to celebrate and strengthen our understanding of Indigenous culture and heritage, all while bringing significant economic activity to our area,” Ady said.
Besides Tsuut’ina Nation representatives, various other First Nations officials were also consulted for their input while preparing Calgary’s bid.
Dunfield said it has already been announced that Tsuut’ina Nation will host five of the 15 NAIG sports that will be contested in 2027.
“We are absolutely thrilled to be a partner with Calgary and for Calgary to have been selected to host the North American Indigenous Games in 2027,” said Roy Whitney, the chief for Tsuut’ina Nation. “We look forward to hosting Indigenous athletes and families on our beautiful lands at the foothills of the Rockies. We are confident that visitors will have an unforgettable experience, with elite competition and cultural activities throughout the Games.”
More than 4,800 athletes from across Canada and the United States participated in this year’s NAIG.
The Games have become the largest multi-sport and cultural event for Indigenous youth in North America.
Athletes under the age of 19 were eligible to take part in this year’s Games.
Dunfield, who is also the chair of the Indigenous Sport Council Alberta, said no new venues will need to be built prior to the 2027 NAIG.
“Everything is pretty much in place,” she said.
This year marked the 10th time the Games have been staged since their inception.
The Games alternate between locations each time. Canada has hosted the Games eight times.
The only two times NAIG was held south of the border was in 1995 when the Minnesota city of Blaine hosted and then in 2006 when the Games were in Denver.
Calgary mayor Jyoti Gondek was also among those celebrating the Games are coming to her city.
“The opportunity to welcome Indigenous athletes, coaches, families and fans to Calgary for these games is a tremendous honour,” she said. “We are committed to an inclusive, week-long celebration of sport and culture which will have a lasting impact on Indigenous athletes and Calgarians.”
Dunfield believes reps of the next Games have their work cut out for them to duplicate the success of this year’s event.
“The 2023 host society did a fantastic job,” she said. “They definitely have raised the bar with what they did.”