New guide shows indigenous people path to sport, life-long activity

A new online resource aims to boost participation in sports and physical activity within Canada’s indigenous communities, while helping build partnerships between aboriginal and non-aboriginal sports organizations.

Olympic champion Alwyn Morris, who is Mohawk from Kahnawake, believes the Aboriginal Long-Term Participant Development Pathway will encourage more indigenous athletes to participate in sports and keep them active longer.

Alwyn Morris speaks at the Canadian Sport for Life Society National Summit in Gatineau. (Waubgeshig Rice/CBC News)

“We’re hoping that it’s going to help bring both the aboriginal sports stream and the non-aboriginal sports stream together, and to start to work together in providing opportunities for aboriginal communities and aboriginal participants at large, both on reserve and in the urban centres,” Morris said

The Sport for Life Society and the Aboriginal Sport Circle began developing the resource three years ago, and launched it at a conference in Gatineau this week.

Its purpose is “to increase the percentage of aboriginal children who become physically literate, define a pathway for aboriginal athletes into high performance sport and to increase the number of aboriginal people who are active for life,” according the project’s website.

Morris, who won gold and bronze medals in kayaking at the 1984 Summer Olympic Games, said the resource will also help national, provincial and local sports organizations reach out to indigenous communities.

“There’s some sensitivities there that you would not necessarily know if you were just coming in,” he said. “So it really gives a good background of how to approach working in an aboriginal community, and also a really good approach of how to use the network within the aboriginal sports stream to get access to and provide services for.”

The 80-page guide outlines tips for coaching and training specific age groups, as well as background information on the historic importance of sports and games in indigenous cultures.

Follows Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action

It also makes reference to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to promote physical activity and sports for indigenous people in Canada.

Alwyn Morris captured Olympic gold in sprint canoeing at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. Here, he carries the Olympic torch ahead of the 2010 Vancouver Games. (Ryan Remiorz/CP)

“I think this has just been so timely in terms of us being able to not just react to it, but be ahead of the curve,” said Morris. “And now with the TRC giving so much more awareness, it certainly will help with the promotion of the resource and hopefully open some doors that were never opened before.”

The CEO Sport for Life said having an indigenous Olympic champion on board will give the new tool a boost.

“It’s absolutely huge to have Alwyn here. Alwyn has been a champion of the development of this,” said Richard Way. “He’s really been a guide and a mentor for us in the development of this resource and the work that we plan to do after.”

That future work includes long-term interaction with participants to help them develop as athletes and stay healthy.

“We’re really happy that finally there’s been an opportunity to look at sport from a different perspective,” said Morris.