The official year-long countdown to the North American Indigenous Games in Halifax in July 2023 has begun.
The NAIG 2023 organizing committee launched the countdown at an event along the Halifax waterfront on July 15. The event included a showcase of Mi’kmaw culture and musical talent.
“This is going to be the biggest multi-sport games in the history of Atlantic Canada,” Halifax Mayor Mike Savage said to the crowd that gathered for the countdown event.
“It’s going to be a chance to celebrate the Mi’kmaw culture, but also the cultures of many of our visitors who are going to come here,” he said.
First time NAIG will be held in Mi’kma’ki
Approximately 5,000 Indigenous athletes, their coaches and team staff from across North America are expected to converge in Halifax from July 15-23, 2023 to compete in 16 sporting categories.
It’s the first time the North American Indigenous Games will be held in Mi’kma’ki, the traditional territory of the Mi’kmaw people.
The venues for the sporting events will be throughout Kjipuktuk (the traditional Mi’kmaw name for Halifax and Dartmouth) as well as in Millbrook First Nation near Truro, N.S.
Norman Bernard, chief of the Wagmatcook First Nation and president of the Mi’kmaw Sports Council of Nova Scotia, told the crowd that hosting NAIG has been a longtime dream of the sports council.
“We will get the show our hospitality and pride for all of Turtle Island to experience,” Chief Bernard said.
“For the youth, this event means they get to display their skills. They get to share their culture on the biggest stage in Mi’kma’ki,” he said.
Fiona Kirkpatrick Parsons, the chair of the 2023 North American Indigenous Games Host Society, said the countdown event is a way to get people excited about the games and for organizers to recruit volunteers.
“We’ve not held an Indigenous-focused event in Kjipuktuk of this magnitude,” Parsons, who is Cree from the Lac La Ronge Indian Band in northern Saskatchewan, said.
“So really, we want people to get excited about it, really understand the full impact of these games are going to have, because I believe it’s what’s going to get people really excited about supporting this event,” she said.
Games postponed in 2020 due to pandemic
The games were originally scheduled to be held in Halifax in 2020 but it was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to Parsons, all the venues, partners and sponsors have still remained in place despite the postponement.
The games will also include a cultural component where athletes and spectators can learn about Mi’kmaw culture. A cultural village will be set up at the Halifax Commons.
“All the events will begin in ceremony,” Parsons explained.
“We’ll also be celebrating culture in the ways we know like dance, song, and art and so on,” she said.