The year-long countdown is on for Halifax to host the North American Indigenous Games, and while it is one of the biggest multi-sport events in Atlantic Canada, organizers also see it as another step toward reconciliation.
To kick off festivities, the host society threw a party on the waterfront Friday to bring people together through traditional song and dance.
"Every opportunity that we have to create opportunities for people to learn and experience our culture is a step towards the right direction," said Cheryl Copage-Gehue, Halifax's Indigenous adviser.
"The more you know, the more you understand, the more chance you will be an ally and support these events."
Sixteen different sports will be showcased at the North American Indigenous Games, including canoe and kayak, lacrosse and archery.
The event is aimed at inspiring the young Indigenous people taking part as they show off their skills on a big stage.
"This is an opportunity for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to come together around a very positive experience that will enhance the lives of the Indigenous youth coming here," said Fiona Kirkpatrick Parsons, chair of the 2023 North American Indigenous Games Host Society.
"And when they go back to their communities, they're going to feel great about themselves, they're going to reflect on their time here as a positive one."
Hosting the games is another sign Halifax is working hard on building an inclusive community, according to Mayor Mike Savage.
As the city prepares to welcome athletes from more than 700 Indigenous nations in North America, he's encouraging people across the region to be a part of it by volunteering for the event.
"I think people will get into this, I think they will learn a lot about the Mi'kmaw history and culture ... They'll also have a lot of fun, so I'm really excited about it," Savage said.
More than 5,000 Indigenous athletes will be competing at the games at venues in Millbrook First Nation, Dartmouth and Halifax. A cultural village will be set up at the Halifax Common.
Copage-Gehue said the cultural village "will create an opportunity to learn our traditional culture here in Mi'kma'ki, but to also learn about Indigenous people from North America."
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