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North American Indigenous Games take place this week

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - The North American Indigenous Games opened Aug. 3 on the Cowichan Reserve in Cowichan Valley, British Columbia. Slated to run through Aug. 10, 6,000 participants will compete in 16 contemporary and traditional sporting events.

Events for the 5,000 junior athletes (ages 13 - 19) include 3-D archery, baseball, basketball, boxing, canoeing, golf, lacrosse, rifle shooting, soccer, softball, swimming, tae kwon do, volleyball, wrestling and athletics. More than 1,000 athletes participated in the senior event for athletes 20 and up, which took place July 30 - Aug. 1.

Opening ceremonies began with the Parade of Nations, composed of athletes, aboriginal veterans, cultural performers and others. Some 10,000 participates paraded through downtown Duncan to the opening ceremonies grounds, where Chief Lydia Hwitsum and elders of the community formally welcomed them into Cowichan Territory.

Unlike other major multiple-sport events, the indigenous games have a unique emphasis on the cultures, traditions and spirituality of indigenous peoples. About 3,000 participants are estimated to be part of the Cultural Village, which will present international, contemporary and traditional entertainment, artisans, merchandise and symposiums throughout the week.

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Two major events were held prior to the games.

From July 19 through Aug. 2, the largest-ever Tribal Journeys Canoe Voyage took place. About 100 traditional ocean-going canoes from a variety of canoe cultures and nations made the two-week journey to Cowichan, traveling from as far north as the Alaskan border (Tlingit) and the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida) and as far south as Oregon. Their entry into Cowichan Bay was marked with a traditional Coast Salish welcome.

Tribal Journeys participants took part in the opening ceremonies.

In addition, the North American Indigenous Games Society sponsored an education symposium July 31 - Aug. 1. Keynote speaker was Willie Littlechild, grand chief of the Ermineskin Cree Nation, founding member of the North American Indigenous Games and president of WIN Sports Inc.

The symposium included such topics as: ;'The Importance of Martial Arts Programs in an Aboriginal Cultural Centre,'' ''Traditional Methods and Protocols in Aboriginal Sport Development - A Holistic Sport Model for Aboriginal Sport'' and ''Does Sport Lower the Level of Depression in Aboriginal Teen Populations?''