Indigenous girls on Prince Edward Island are being encouraged to get involved in sports they love, including hockey.
An Indigenous Girls Hockey Jamboree was held in Charlottetown Saturday, put on by the Miꞌkmaq Confederacy of P.E.I.'s Aborginal Sports Circle, which brings together Indigenious youth from across nations through sport. Girls from six to 14 participated.
"We just wanted to bring the girls together to learn some skills from our hockey leaders," said Lynn Anne Hogan, the manager of the sport circle.
The jamboree had a cultural component, too. After their drills, the girls had a workshop in traditional porcupine quill art. They also had a session from a sports nutritionist to learn how to fuel their bodies for sport.
Hogan said young Indigenous girls aren't involved in sport enough.
"We're really trying to do what we can to work with our First Nation communities to increase opportunities for young Indigenous girls to be active, to be healthy and to participate in sport," she said.
"Events like this can kind of eliminate some of those barriers when it comes to cost and having access to sport."
Seven girls from P.E.I.'s two First Nations — Lennox Island and Abegweit — participated in Saturday's event, and one even came from Nova Scotia, because she isn't able to attend the event in that province.
The girls were coached by female Indigenous players, including Kiara LaBobe from Charlottetown, who has played minor hockey since she was in Grade 6, starting with a boys team. For three years at the midget AAA level, she played with Team Atlantic in the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships.
"When I got involved with [Team Atlantic] it was instantly a connection, because they're all the same culture as me," she said. "It was nice to connect with people that I can relate to.
"I think it's really important for Indigenous girls to stay in hockey because you will find connections like that and form bonds and friendships ... hockey is an amazing sport where you get to meet people all over the world."
LaBobe said teaching the young girls Saturday "feels amazing."
"I love watching other children grow," she said. "I'm excited that I can help with that, even just a little bit."
Erin Denny, a hockey player from Eskasoni First Nation in Nova Scotia who plays hockey for Saint Mary's University, also helped coach.
"I honestly love it because I didn't have this when I was younger," said Denny. "To provide a space where they can be with people like them and have that comfort zone."
The girls who participated in the jamboree are already registered for minor hockey. Hogan said she hopes it inspires them to stay in the sport.
"We hope that by other community members seeing these girls on the ice, it will encourage and inspire other young girls ... to get involved in sport, and that it's a safe place for them and they can have a lot of fun."
This is the first even the sports circle has been able to have since the pandemic began.
The organization received $8,500 from ParticipACTION's Community Better Challenge, a national physical activity initiative that encourages Canadians to get active together. The money is being used to mount three such events for girls in the Maritimes.
Hogan said the circle is looking to build its P.E.I. team for the North American Indigenous Games, being held in Halifax in 2023.