Sport for All – Canada’s Aboriginal Persons (by Adam Goodwin)

Sport for All – Canada’s Aboriginal Persons

by Adam Goodwin | 2014 | Last Updated: July 8, 2014

Sport for All

Through my work with Okanagan Elite Athlete, I am currently exploring the idea of bringing sport to each and every of the 7 billion individual human beings on the planet.  The 2014 North American Indigenous Games are approaching quickly with opening ceremonies scheduled for July 20, 2014.  With the Games approaching and currently exploration of sport for all, in this blog post, I take a look at Aboriginal persons in Canada at their sport.


In 1972, the Native Sport and Recreation Program began receiving funding from the Canadian federal government.  The National Indian Activities Program funding was cut in 1981.  The funding was cut because Aboriginal leaders refused to ‘enter mainstream Canada’ as many politicians wanted as part of funding agreements.  Since, there have been no federal programs to encourage aboriginal persons in Canada to participate and promote their sport.

The lead to fund these programs actually came from the United States.  USA President Lyndon Johnson once stated: “We must affirm the right of the first Americans to remain Indians while exercising their rights as Americans.  We must affirm their rights to freedom of choice and self-determination.”

What happened in 1981?  The federal government wanted conformity amongst its diverse group of populations (e.g., Aboriginal, immigrants, Europeans, etc).  When Aboriginal leaders refused to enter the ‘mainstream’, federal ministers responded by pulling the funding from the National Indian Activities Program in 1981.  This may have caused a great loss in Aboriginal traditions, culture, and way of life.


A look at Aboriginal sport in Canada would be inadequate without a look at lacrosse.

In the mid-1800s, Canada officially adopted lacrosse as the national sport.  To this day, lacrosse continues to be the country’s national sport.  This is a homage to the influence Canada’s Indigenous peoples have had Canada throughout the young country’s history.

Historians have tried to trace the history of lacrosse.  There are various stories of differing communities have different versions of the game.  Many believe it may have transcended from the Algonquian (a community in what is now Western Quebec, and allies to the French) game of baggataway.  Nevertheless, today, many believe lacrosse was a way to keep their armies fit and strong – both for war and hunting.  It may have also been used to honour gods.

The North American Indigenous Games

The 2014 North American Indigenous Games take place July 20-27, 2014 in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. Started in 1990 in Edmonton, Alberta, the Games return to Canada in 2014.

The week of ‘sport’ will be an opportunity for the various cultures, languages, and sports from Canada’s diverse range of Aboriginal communities to come together for a week.  Indigenous athletes will participate in various sports, including: archery, badminton, canoeing, lacrosse, and wrestling.

Alongside the sporting component of the Games, is the cultural program.  In addition to the opening and closing ceremonies, a variety of cultural activities will provide an environment for Indigenous to share dances, music, language, and dress.  A very important component of many Indigenous populations is the role of elders in the communities.  The Elder’s Lounge provides an atmosphere for interaction, dialogue, and learning between elders and athletes.

If you are in the Regina area during the Games, definitely an event you do not want to miss!

A Call To Action

Canada and Canadians must re-think how each of us thinks about others, and more specifically, Canada’s Aboriginal persons.  Why many Canadians have very negative views of Canada’s indigenous populations is pre-ice age thinking.

Further Reading

If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy reading this blog post: Master of Human Kinetics


These are one person’s thoughts and opinions.  We welcome your feedback and own thoughts. Feel free to comment below or connect with us via social media.

Adam Goodwin is a Canadian working in the United Kingdom and virtually in Canada, and is a proud introvert and silent leader. He has travelled to nearly 50 major and global cities around the world, and has worked with universities, non-profits, consulting firms, and sports organizations. He has family and friends in Canada and around the rainbow nation’s only home. Follow his travels, work, projects, and thoughts on Twitter (@adam13goodwin) and on this blog (click on the bottom right-hand corner to sign up for weekly email notifications).  For more about some of immediate day-to-day work, visit

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