Chief Jacob Bearspaw School in Eden Valley is participating in the Indigenous Sport Council of Alberta’s (ISCA) inaugural 2021 Fall Virtual Indigenous School Games.
On Oct. 4, students from Grades 7 to 12 in 18 schools across the province began competing in the eight-week event for medals and banners in seven different traditional games of Indigenous, Métis, and Inuit descent.
Chris Geminiano, physical education teacher at Chief Jacob Bearspaw School, said that while the medals and banners are nice, it also serves as the perfect opportunity to refamiliarize students with some of their own traditions.
While many of the games originated from other First Nations, Métis or Inuit people, many of them were played by the Stoney Nakoda people as well, Geminiano said.
“A lot of it is new. Some of them might be vaguely familiar," he said. "They might have heard of the games or know of a variation. I think it’s a great opportunity to either familiarize or refamiliarize themselves with some of the traditional games that they’re ancestors played. Not just to learn the games but to know the importance of the games and how it can help them today.”
Biig Hoop, a traditional Cree game, focuses on developing lateral movements which are important for running through the bush, being in battle and to play sports and games.
Kneel Jump originates from Inuit culture where, historically, hunters would use the game to strengthen their leg muscles to jump from ice floe to ice floe and for lifting pretty after a successful hunt.
Kneel Jump works by having participants form a line, starting in a kneeling position with feet flat on the floor. Participants swing their arms back and forth to pick up momentum and then jump forward, while remaining and landing in their original position. Each participant gets to make three jumps total and the distance is tallied at the end to determine the winner.
“We do lots of sports, whether it’s volleyball or basketball and a lot of the same sort of skills are involved in these traditional games,” Geminiano said. “So, I think it’s a great opportunity to kind of tie in what they do now but also learn about what games were played traditionally.”
Geminiano said that the Eden Valley girls and boys’ volleyball teams are a force to be reckoned with — both recently took part in the ICSA’s Indigenous Summer Games in Edmonton, Canada’s largest Indigenous multi-sport games.
The Fall Virtual Games work a little differently as students are participating within the safety of their own school.
Chief Jacob Bearspaw School mandated at-home for the month of September due to rising COVID-19 cases, Geminiano added, and since then has implemented a cohort system where students are alternating their attendance days.
Students can play in the games about twice a week during regular physical education classes. Geminiano explained that the outcomes of the students’ performances are tabulated on a results sheet and then sent in to the ISCA at the end of the 8-week games.
Winners will receive medals and banners for their school, with 294 medals and 18 banners to be won and awarded by the ISCA at the end.