More than 5,000 elite youth athletes representing 756 First Nations will be headed to Alberta as Calgary has been chosen to host the 2027 North American Indigenous Games.
“For all of the Indigenous elders and leaders that have explained to us the significance of sport in Indigenous culture, I do hope that they will be happy that we are bringing the games home,” Mayor Jyoti Gondek told Global News Calgary from Nova Scotia.
The selection of Calgary’s bid over the competing finalist of Kamloops, B.C., was announced Friday evening and was scheduled to coincide with the NAIG closing ceremonies in Halifax before rain altered plans.
“This is incredibly important in terms of the work we all must do around truth and reconciliation,” Gondek said. “The fact that these games were started back in 1990 to address high rate of suicide amongst Indigenous youth throughout North America.
“These games have been very successful in engaging youth in a more meaningful way.”
Tourism Calgary worked alongside the Tsuut’ina Nation to prepare the local bid.
“We are absolutely thrilled to be a partner with Calgary and for Calgary to have been selected to host the North American Indigenous Games in 2027,” Tsuut’ina Nation Chief Roy Whitney said in a release. “We look forward to hosting Indigenous athletes and families on our beautiful lands at the foothills of the Rockies.
“We are confident that visitors will have an unforgettable experience, with elite competition and cultural activities throughout the games.”
Gondek says at the start of the partnership, Tsuut’ina Nation officials stepped up and said they had the facilities that would work for some of the sports — golf and archery.
“And of course, they have a beautiful sports facility (the Seven Chiefs Sportsplex & Chief Jim Starlight Centre) out there on the nation,” said Gondek. “And we had chiefs from the other Treaty 7 nations come forward to endorse the idea of doing this in Calgary and region.”
The games are set to include 16 different sporting events with athletes competing in U19, U16 or U14 age groups.
Cindy Ady, Tourism Calgary CEO, says hosting the games is an honour.
“The games will inspire thousands of Indigenous youth through sport, and will be a tremendous opportunity to celebrate and strengthen our understanding of Indigenous culture and heritage,” Ady said in a statement. “All while bringing significant economic activity to our area.”
The economic impact of the Calgary NAIG, which will bring athletes, as well as their families and coaches, to the city, is expected to be roughly $40 million, while preliminary cost estimates are in the $15 million to $20 million range. All three levels of government have committed funding to the Calgary games.
Gondek says, as part of a partnership with local post-secondary institutions, dorms will be used to house the participants and the schools will be watching the Indigenous athletes for potential recruitment.
According to Tourism Calgary, 3,000 volunteers will be required to help run the games.
The first NAIG took place in Edmonton in 1990.
The dates and venues for the 2027 Calgary games have yet to be released.