Syilx sending nearly 40 athletes to Aboriginal Games

Syilx is sending 38 athletes to compete in the North American Indigenous Games in Toronto

Laatya James and William Casimir-Eneas are taking on Canada’s best aboriginal athletes next week.

The pair are among 38 athletes representing Syilx in the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) in Toronto, July 17 to 22.

James, 18, a member of the Osoyoos Indian Band and graduate of South Okanagan Secondary School, will line up along side the best rifle shooters. James started shooting competitively two years ago. In that time, she won her high school rodeo, competed in the National High School Rodeo finals in Wyoming and qualified for NAIG by being among the top two shooters in her age group in B.C.

“It’s a very amazing opportunity,” said James.

She heads into NAIG leaning on experience for success. She will also count on her mental toughness, after learning about sports psychology in school, which taught her how to deal with competition and staying focused.

“I want to be able to shoot one of my best scoring,” she said. “Just have fun and enjoy the experience.”

She wants to make the most of the opportunity as it will be her only trip to NAIG. The age categories to qualify are between under-16 and -19. While James is relatively new to competition, shooting rifles isn’t new to her. She has been shooting since she was a kid, going out with her father Darrel. She enjoys shooting competitively and said it is great because it is an individual sport, placing the focus on what she does, not concerning herself with others.

On the basketball court, Casimir-Eneas is also making his NAIG debut.

“It’s a pretty good experience,” said Casimir-Eneas, who played on the Maggie Mustangs junior team and last year played club ball. “I look to come back with a medal. I just want to bring home a medal.”

He doesn’t care what colour the medal is, but it’s no surprise his preference is gold. He goes in with confidence in the team. Syilx possesses shooters, rebounders and others who can handle the ball well.

“I like to protect the rim and get boards,” said Casimir-Eneas.

With the action starting soon, Casimir-Eneas has some nerves. It’s the first time he will compete on such a big stage. With the Mustangs, they finished third in the AA Okanagan Valley.

Rifle shooting and basketball are among 16 sports represented at NAIG including archery, lacrosse, athletics, badminton, baseball, canoe/kayak, golf, soccer, softball, swimming, volleyball and wrestling. Of these, Syilx athletes are in archery, athletics, basketball, lacrosse, rifle shooting, softball, volleyball, and wrestling.

All of these competitors demonstrate a high-level of dedication and excellence in their sport. They have further exhibited a strong commitment to their participation and representation at NAIG through the support of their families and communities in competing in the Regional tryouts and training to represent Team B.C. We are aware of their determination to compete and vie for a spot on the Team by their fundraising efforts in order to enable their own participation. For many of these athletes NAIG will be the premier sporting event that they will participate at in their athletic careers.

Overall, access and opportunity to play and excel in such sports competition is integral to promoting the physical, mental health and wellness of indigenous youth. It also provides an excellent opportunity to cultivate a deep sense of pride in both culture and Nation.

This is the largest continental sporting and cultural gathering of Indigenous people, with over 5,000 indigenous athletes attending. Since 1990, the event has been hosted every three years, now intermittently between Canada and the USA.

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