First Nations, Inuit and Métis athletes from all over the continent are ready to compete in 14 sporting events at the North American Indigenous Games.
Team Saskatchewan was sent off in style with a pep rally at Whitecap Dakota First Nation, just south of Saskatoon.
“I’m just really happy that I made the team, I can’t believe I’m here. Oh my god, it’s actually happening, I’m going to Toronto!” Isaac Chicoose Johnson, a lacrosse player from Fort Qu’Appelle, said.
“I’m kind of nervous but I shouldn’t be nervous about anything. All I want to do is just play lacrosse.”
The 560 athletes, coaches and volunteers who gathered on Friday were brimming with excitement as they prepared to leave for Toronto the following day.
“It’s actually pretty cool because they’re all over from different reserves,” Mandy Larose, a volleyball player from Peepeekisis First Nation, said.
“It’s pretty interesting getting to know all athletes, they’re a different culture and what they know in their sport, because everyone plays differently, so it’s pretty interesting to get to know everybody and what they do.”
The young athletes will march together into Aviva Centre on Sunday to open up the ninth North American Indigenous Games.
“I think the biggest thing for me is to make sure that these kids experience something that allows them to feel confident, build up their self-esteem, know that they’re worth a lot,” Mike Tanton, Team Saskatchewan’s chef de mission, said.
“At the same time, push their goals and their expectations of themselves to a higher level.”
Team Saskatchewan has captured the overall title at the games six times.