August 10, 2017 11:49 pm
Updated: August 11, 2017 6:17 am

Saskatchewan First Nations Summer/Winter Games renamed after founder Tony Cote

Thousands of young atheletes from 74 First Nations communities are in Regina competing in the Sask. First Nations Summer Games.

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The Saskatchewan First Nations Summer/Winter Games will now be known as the Tony Cote First Nations Summer/Winter Games to honour its founder.

Tony Cote started the games in 1974. He said that at the time, he noticed that many First Nations youth under 20 were excluded by non-Indigenous sports team and he wanted to change that.

About 500 Indigenous athletes competed when the first summer games took place 43 years ago.

This year, the summer games attracted over 3,000 athletes from 74 First Nations throughout the province.

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“At least I’ll be known for a little while anyway,” Cote laughed.

“It makes me very proud of the leadership, of the communities that are participating. The athletes are the ones I’m very proud of.  They’ve improved, they’re good participants with fair sporting and they realize that they have to try their best for their communities and for themselves.”

Cote was inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in 2011.

He was elected Chief of the Cote First Nation in 1970. In this role, he oversaw the building of a hockey arena with an artificial ice surface.

It was the first such facility for any Saskatchewan First Nations.

Cote also is a veteran of the Korean War.

READ MORE: Running can improve mental health: Sask. First Nations Summer Games coach

“It’s well deserved, he’s respected, and people will always know that name long after we’re gone that it’s Tony Cote that created the First Nation Summer Games in ’74,” said Elmer Eashappie, manager of the 2017 Saskatchewan First Nations Games.

For Cote, it’s all still sinking in, but he couldn’t be happier to be recognized for something he created decades ago.

He said that athletes will still come up to him today to thank him for starting the games. To Cote it’s about young people making memories and building confidence that makes it all worth it.

“It promotes unity, it promotes recognition, and it promotes pride for the young people,” Cote said.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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