By Jeremy Appel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – The 2021 Alberta Indigenous Games (AIG) kick off Aug. 12 at the West Edmonton Mall’s Ice Palace, with Indigenous elders and dignitaries participating in the Eagle Staff Run through the first floor of the mall.
Afterwards, a procession of athletes will enter the Ice Palace for the opening ceremony at 2 p.m., which will include various Indigenous vendors and artisans onsite to showcase their projects, in addition to a formal program of speakers and performances.
The games, which were cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19, will take place Aug. 13 -19 at various sporting facilities throughout Edmonton. Athletes will participate in a dozen competitive sports — basketball, hand games, baseball, lacrosse, ball hockey, soccer, golf, fast-pitch softball, volleyball, beach volleyball, rugby and cross country. The festivities also include traditional games, education, cultural connections and other special events.
AIG CEO Jacob Hendy says there are 215 teams registered. “This is the largest Indigenous multi-sport Summer Games happening on a yearly basis in Canada! We love it. It’s a lot of work,” he said, referring to late nights and early mornings of organizing. “And it’s totally worth it.”
Volunteers take all the registration forms and create teams with them for each sport, and then each sport is divided into three or four divisions before they establish a schedule, which is co-ordinated with the participating facilities.
There are 2,000 Indigenous youth participating in the games this year, compared to 300 in 2011, the year of the AIG’s inception.
Participants must provide proof of Indigenous ancestry, whether it’s a status card, Metis card, or by writing out their lineage.
Each athlete will receive an “Every Child Matters. Never Forget” orange shirt, as well as sunscreen, a water bottle, coupons for stores at the mall and AIG stickers.
West Edmonton Mall general manager Danielle Woo says it’s an honour to host thousands of Indigenous youth from across Alberta.
“We look forward to continuing the building of our partnership with the Games and with our Indigenous communities in the years to come,” said Woo.
Hendy says that there are still great opportunities for people wishing to participate as volunteers.”We still need ‘big time’ help in volunteering for our Games starting next week August 12-19th! We mostly need score keepers and time keepers,” he said.
“Please email [email protected] to let us know what shifts, on what days and times you can volunteer and for what sport. If you volunteer for 2 shifts or 8 hours, you get a sweet special edition AIG Orange Shirt. Volunteers also get fed! It’s an incredible experience to be part of. Please share share share. Our youth really need the help right now in getting volunteers for these positions for their Games!”