Let's take it back ...
In fall 2009, a group of Mi’kmaw Chiefs from Unama’ki, or Cape Breton, began discussions on reviving the Summer Games, an athletic gathering and competitions that Mi’kmaw communities in Nova Scotia previously held from the 1970s to 1990s. The Chiefs agreed that it is very important to encourage youth involvement in sports, and ensure that Mi’kmaw traditions are passed on to younger generations. In the past, the Summer Games were a great way to celebrate both sports and culture. Lifelong friendships were built because of the games, which helps strengthen the Mi’kmaw Nation.
To inspire youth and young adults to believe in themselves, achieve their dreams and unite with all indigenous communities to share and learn Mi’kmaw culture and traditions.
To be a stronger First Nation community whose spirit is raised by its passion for sport and the Mi’kmaw culture.
Our definition of sustainability refers to the social, economic and environmental impacts and opportunities the Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Summer Games (NSMSG) produce – specifically, lasting benefits.
Some examples of this long-term impact are:
- – Promoting health and wellness within all communities year round – particularly amongst our youth. This will be achieved by year long preparations for the games, through training and practice sessions.
- – Sports Education (coaches clinics) – These have been offered the last two years prior to the games and are open to those who wish to become certified.
- – Upgrades to field and facilities
- – Continuing to instill team spirit and help build friendships that will last a lifetime.
As far as the summer games society is concerned, when talking about capacity building, we are talking about enhancing the ability of all five Cape Breton Mi’kmaw communities, and now the Mainland communities, to address their health issues and concerns. We are addressing this to some degree with the summer games event. One of our goals is to instill the love of sports and healthy lifestyles amongst youth. If we can touch the youth of today with this message, there is a chance they will continue on the path of health and wellness throughout their lives.
Capacity Building relies strongly on collaboration and partnerships which we have many – this includes the partnerships of all Mi’kmaw communities in Nova Scotia. Also, with the support of government and local businesses, in the past five years we have built many strong relationships. One of the challenges we face is obtaining more funding for both the games and the host communities. With more funding, the games could continue to grow and add more to the overall event.
Five Years of Success:
So far, the Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Summer Games have been held in six Unamaki communities:
2010 – Membertou First Nation
2011 – Wagmatcook First Nation
2012 – Eskasoni First Nation
2013 – Waycobah First Nation
2014 – Potlotek First Nation
2015- Millbrook First Nation
Here, Clifford Paul shares some memories and thoughts with us on the NS Mi’kmaw Summer Games:
Building The Future While Looking to The Past ...
The games were very important to me in many ways. First and foremost, many of the parents of the day brought their families to the Summer Games – and everybody had something to do at the games. The questions we usually ask amongst family and friends and our distant cousins from other Mi’kmaq communities were: “What are you going to enter? Have you practiced? How good is your team? Who are you pitching when you play us?”The games were something very special to us all. While some people excelled in team sports, there were others that stood out in individual sports such as canoeing, rifle shooting, track and field, archery. As teens, we watched with great interest, what was going on in the annual princess pageant as well. Myself, I did well in archery of course – always competing at every Summer Games event that I could attend. I played fastball and during the last event in Membertou, 1991 I believe, we introduced outdoor volleyball as a demonstration sport for the event. The games biggest success, however, is the social avenues the event created. We were brought up in a time when there was an incredible awareness of each other. In that I mean we were happy to reunite with our friends from other First Nation communities across the province. There was the competitive nature of things that was commonplace, but, aside from all that there was a lot of happiness and camaraderie amongst our people. I’d say that is the greatest legacy of the Summer Games – that it allowed the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia to gather for a common purpose. I will always remember the runners coming in from the previous year’s host community and passing on the scroll to the host community to officially open the Summer Games. I remember the excellence our people displayed; not only in athletic accomplishment, but in cheering each other on and just simply enjoying the company of our people.The Summer Games had significant impact on our communities. For many, the games provided the excuse to spend very limited dollars on upgrading our humble facilities. Every community had cheap labor in those days in the form of summer students. I know for a fact, that these students raked tons and tons of rocks from their fields and converted them to immaculate ball fields and quarter-mile tracks. Cultural grounds were also set up and they provided fun and entertainment for everyone as well. This would include kettle boiling contests, teepee painting, arts and crafts demonstrations, and traditional Mi’kmaq feasts.
Every community took pride in their preparation for the games. Additionally, there were some that enjoyed the entrepreneurial benefits of hosting the games as there were lots of hungry mouths to feed. Food vendors, especially benefitted locally, hotel rooms were bought up, and local sporting goods stores were ringing in the profits as well.
The return of the Summer Games was bound to happen. For those of us that attended the games with our parents, we want to ensure that our children and their children will get to experience the greatness of those former days. I am extremely proud that our communities have not let go of this and are willing to bring it back. People from my generation and my parents’ generation are sure to be excited about this. Aside from all the nostalgia associated with the Summer Games, the opportunity for our people to gather fosters an immeasurable amount of goodwill and friendly competition. It would be a great feeling when our Chief Terry Paul reads the Summer Games scroll and announces: “Let the games begin!”
Clifford Paul is from Membertou, NS and is UNIR’s Moose Management Coordinator