This month, the largest sporting event the Maritimes has seen since European contact was supposed to take over the city: 5,250 athletes from 756 Indigenous nations were ready to compete in 16 sports as part of the North American Indigenous Games.
And while Halifax will have to wait until 2021 for what NAIG alumni Savvy Simon told The Coast is "the Olympics for Indigenous people," there is some good news to hold us all over: There will be an online edition of the mawiomi (the Mi'kmaq word for gathering) happening this July, called "NAIG At Home".
"We really wanted to find a way to gather everyone together," explains Fiona Kirkpatrick-Parsons, chairperson for NAIG 2020. "What is it we can do to let these youth know we're still thinking of them; they're very much in our hearts and on our minds? How can we do something? And we've been seeing virtual events taking place, but how could we carve out and create our own unique whatever-that-was-gonna-be?"
The athletes and performers will be uploading photos and videos of themselves, Kirkpatrick-Parsons says. "You'll see people sharing their talents: Singing, there might be a video of someone in their living room doing a dance, or a song or drumming."
"The cultural component is woven in," Kirkpatrick-Parsons explains. "If the games were happening here physically, you'd see the games are not just games, that the culture would be very much a part of every single sport, as well as separate cultural activities that would be going on around K'jipuktuk."
Kirkpatrick-Parsons adds: "When you do something on social media, it tends to take on a life of its own, so we're excited to see how this takes on its own life." She urges everyone to follow along on Facebook and like and comment on posts (@NAIG2020HFX) from July 11 to 18: "We really want to encourage people to not just watch but to cheer people on—show these youth we're watching, we're cheering them on, we can't wait to welcome them in person. I want that same Maritime hospitality we're known for to come across on social media."