Nanaimo students learn about northern Indigenous culture through sport

By Spencer Sterritt
March 16, 2017 - 3:58pm Updated: March 16, 2017 - 4:36pm

The Northern Games, which have run for the last several years, promoted awareness and education about Indigenous culture outside the classroom.Spencer Sterritt/NanaimoNewsNOW

NANAIMO — Students took it to the mat in the 2017 Northern Games, but not for the traditional sports you might expect.

Sixty-eight students from host John Barsby, Nanaimo District, Cedar and Ladysmith Secondary School all took part in games such as the knuckle hop and one foot high jump Thursday to learn about northern Indigenous culture and history.

John Barsby's Indigenous studies teacher Donna Flett said it's a more effective way to teach.

“It's something that everyone can enjoy and learn about,” she said. “And you learn so much more about the people because of learning about the sport. They realize that Indigenous culture and sport is not just for Indigenous people.”

She said the alternative games allowed students who didn't play traditional sports to take part and feel successful.

“The kids really seem to take to these games because they're so different. Kids who might not excel at soccer or basketball, for example, find a real niche here.”

The 12 sports emphasized three characteristics, strength, endurance and tolerance of pain, which were required to survive the harsh northern climate.

The one-foot high kick is rooted in the hunting history.

Flett explained when hunting parties didn't want to scare off their prey by shouting or yelling at the separate parties, they would instead leap quietly into the air and point at their target to coordinate attacks.

A delegation from Snuneymuxw First Nation presented the opening ceremony.


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