After being postponed until 2021 in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) will still have a week-long virtual event this month called #NAIGatHOME.
Inspired in part by social media movements and virtual events taking place in Indigenous communities across the globe, said organizers, the event will feature virtual competitions, activities, sport-related panel discussions and educational information via NAIG 2020’s Facebook and YouTube pages.
The 2020 games, originally scheduled for July 12-18, were expected to draw upwards of 6,000 people from up to 756 different Indigenous nations to venues around K’jipuktuk/Halifax and the communities of Aldershot, N.S., and Millbrook First Nation.
“We wanted to find a way to have everyone gather together under a different pretext,” said Brendon Smithson, executive director of games delivery for NAIG 2020.
“Our tagline is ‘physically apart, together at heart.’ We’re making sure that we’re supporting each other through challenging times.”
At the heart of the event usually held every three years is a sense of “togetherness” between athletes and between Indigenous communities, Smithson said. Maintaining that sentiment, despite the disappointment among young athletes for the postponement, was a priority for the organizers, he said.
“The kids are quite disappointed that they’re not able to participate this year, and they’re really looking forward to it and training hard and we want to find a way to again uplift them and give them something to look forward to,” said Smithson.
Everyone can participate
The virtual event is meant for anyone who had plans to participate, said Serene Porter, executive director of NAIG partnerships and marketing.
“The main goal of our games for this year was 50 per cent sport and 50 per cent culture . . . so we included a cultural aspect within it as much as we could,” she said.
“One of the most important pieces was creating that connection between our participants. It’s a space for development and sharing their skills and culture.”
The week begins with a virtual marketplace and mawio’mi (Mi’kmaw for gathering, or powwow) and a bingo-like interactive game that anyone can take part in for chances to compete and earn prizes, she said.
Porter said that it’s taken time to sort out what will take place during the 2021 games and when they will happen, but K’jipuktuk/Halifax is still considered to be the host location.
“We’re working really hard with our funding partners to come up with a decision on what they will look like moving forward, and we don’t have a date as of yet. We’re waiting patiently,” she said.