Halifax – known to the Mi’kmaq people as Kjipuktuk, meaning Great Harbour – beat out Victoria and Ottawa to host the 2020 North American Indigenous Games (NAIG). This is the first time the Games will be hosted in Mi’kmaw Territory and it will be the largest ever multisport event to take place in Atlantic Canada (topping both the 2011 Canada Winter Games and the Canada Summer Games, held in Halifax in 1969). From July 12 to 18, more than 5,000 athletes representing 756 Indigenous nations from across North America will be in the city to compete in 16 sports.
NAIG 2020 is the 30th anniversary of the games, which, going forward, will run every four years. Featured sports include everything from lacrosse (one of the oldest organized sports in North America) and basketball to canoeing, kayaking and swimming. Then, there’s the 3–D archery, an event all its own. Instead of shooting at round bull’s–eye targets set at a defined distance, archers shoot at 3–D targets shaped like animals that are placed at varying distances, requiring the athletes to determine the position of the targets while also hitting scoring rings positioned in different spots on each.
In between sports competitions there will be plenty of traditional foods to try, like frybread and bannock, as well as art and cultural events, including an arm wrestling demonstration by Trevor Sanipass of APTN’s documentary series Arm Nation.
For those who favour spectacle over sport, the opening ceremony kick things off at the Scotiabank Centre downtown before everything comes to an end seven days later on the historic Garrison Grounds. Dakota Morrisey, a 17–year–old lacrosse player who lives in Dartmouth and is a member of the Keeseekoose First Nation, is looking forward to visiting the bustling Cultural Village. “To me, the NAIG is about celebrating our culture and who we are as people,” he says. “It’s also cool to be able to play a game that’s so close to my spiritual connections at home.”