‘Bringing us back to tradition and spirit’: A look at Indigenous Sport

This week, host Melissa Ridgen put Indigenous athletes and sport InFocus.

She spoke with Olympic hopeful James Lavallee. The Red River Métis kayaker was named 2017s Male Indigenous Athlete of the year in Canada and won three medals at the 2017 Canada Summer games.

“In the sport of kayaking, it’s an Indigenous sport,” Lavallee said.

“Kayak is actually pronounced hk-ayak, because it’s an Inuit word, Inukuk, that’s something that no one talks about. Like we don’t go to national championships and people are like ‘hey you know these kayaks came from Inuit people, a modern version’ but no one really connects to that.

“There are very few Indigenous people who know it as an Indigenous sport, and that’s concerning to me,” he said, of wanting to see more Indigenous people take it up.

Lavallee eventually plans to pass on his love of sport, to the next generation.

“I was very fortunate that I had a lot of support growing up. I was able to participate in sport and not everyone has that opportunity,” he said.

“So I really want to — post-kayaking career, when I’m home full-time — is to kick-start some of these programs that are going to make a difference for a lot of these Indigenous youth. Start using the river and these boats in a way that is bringing us back to tradition and spirit and solidifying a lot of identity and those sorts of things.”

When most people think of powwow, it’s regalia, song, and Indian tacos that come to mind. But what about the physical fitness required to dance for long period of time, often in sweltering heat?

How do dancers maintain their stamina to dance?

Buffy Handel, founder of the Aboriginal School of Dance has blended dance and fitness to stay in shape and help others reach their fitness goals.

“I actually did a combination of both spiritual learning and the physical fitness portion of combining all of these practices together,” Handel said

“Because for the Indigenous culture, fitness isn’t just about that physical part of things. All human beings are born with four original identities to survive this world and to try to look at the physical self as something that is completely separate from emotion, spirit and the knowledge part of the spiritual-being, having human experiences. That physical portion is in combination. So I think that being physically fit it is something that really kind of thrusts into our culture as well and are extremely interconnected.”

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