This article is in Xaad Kíl.
With the easing of provincial restrictions, sports tournaments are back on and basketball fever has hit Haida Gwaii! The Junior All Native Basketball Tournament (JANT) is already under way, and many are preparing for the All-Native Basketball Tournament next month.
The JANT is being hosted by the Sylix people in kiláwnaʔ Kelowna. It started on Sunday, March 20 and will last until Friday, March 25. JANT one of the biggest basketball tournaments in Canada. Tournament director, Tara Montgomery said in 2020 there was nearing 90 teams participating before it was cancelled due to the pandemic.
On February 20, 2022, JANT was announced to proceed. For most, it’s an expensive venture and takes a lot of work making it happen. In spite of the short notice and proof of vaccinations, Montgomery was thrilled to see 65 teams sign up. The team’s breakdown is; 21 boys and 18 girls under 17, with 12 boys and 14 girls under 13. That makes up more than 850 athletes! Taking into account their extended gwáaygaangs families, coaches, managers, spectators, and those facilitating JANT, it’s a staggering amount of people.
The under 13 category is a new division that was started in 2017. The committee took note of the number of younger siblings who came along with their gwáaygaangs, and decided to add it to the tournament. They wanted as many youth and children on the floor as possible.
The four teams representing Haida Gwaii are two under 17 boys’ teams, Skidegate Saints and Jr Haida Raiders; one under 17 girls’ team, Skidegate Saints; and under 13 girls’ team, Gwaii Storm. You can’t go on any social media without seeing a plethora of in action shots, and live links to catch a game.
Its 10-year-old Taan Gid Kuyaas Payson Edgars very first tournament! She is playing for Gwaii Storm. Her parents and many others were busy with preparations to head off on this great adventure. Now they’re all in kiláwnaʔ making their hoop dreams come true.
Taan Gid Kuyaas’ mother, Kathleen White also went off island for basketball and remembers it as one of the best times of her adolescence and wants the same experience for her daughter. She agreed that it is excellent for their mental health to go and experience this milestone of maturity.
Taan Gid Kuyaas and her tuwíi friend, 11-year-old Alexis Lawson have been hot on the court trying to gain some experience that will guide their first time playing in a basketball tournament. They’re certainly ready to make some great memories together. I got to have a quick chat with the two players. I asked what they were looking forward to the most and both mentioned going to the pool, and laser tag. Their smiles were huge while they spoke about visiting with their gwáaygangs.
After all the hard work fundraising, practicing, and volunteering those attending sure deserve the time away. Especially given the long wait and the last year being particularly heartbreaking.
COVID-19 presented us all with what seemed like unsurmountable challenges. We are moving on and persevering. However, the discovery of our Indigenous children buried at Residential Schools has brought up unresolved pain. The healing salve of sports is giving us hope that we need to overcome.
Seeing our children winning games, learning sportsmanship, getting awards, being silly, having fun in the big city and most importantly, showing pride in who they are as Indigenous people fill us, and íitl’ kuuníisii our ancestors with hope. Imagine our relatives who’ve passed watching us laugh, smile, enjoy life, and bring light to our fractured past with yahgudáng respect. That’s our future out there giving their all. How special is that?
Good luck to all the teams. Stay safe and have fun.