Tony Cote Summer Games chance for Indigenous youth to showcase athleticism, leadership

Thousands of Indigenous athletes, coaches and volunteers have descended on the Flying Dust First Nation for the Tony Cote Summer Games. 

The games are billed as a way for Indigenous youth to strive to be their best through fair and honest competition. 

"These games give an opportunity to showcase their athletic abilities but also to showcase their leadership among their peers," said Clay DeBray, games manager.

The summer games are hosted every other year in Indigenous communities around Saskatchewan for one week. This year, Flying Dust First Nation, neighbouring Meadow Lake, Sask., is playing host.

Flying Dust First Nation 2019 Tony Cote Summer Games/Facebook

DeBray said there were some challenges with the weather at the start of the week but things are looking better now. 

The main focus of the games is ensuring youth are having fun, according to DeBray.

"It gives them a healthy alternative that we hope that there's the opportunity that they take these games as a healthy choice [for] a healthy lifestyle."

He said the event is drug and alcohol free and promotes sober living in a variety of ways. Elders are also on hand teaching cultural topics according to DeBray. 

The games manager said the games have grown over the years, with nearly 6,000 athletes coaches and volunteers in Flying Dust to participate. 

Athletes attend from far and wide 

David Morin is playing softball with Team Woodland, a team composed of athletes from northern and central Sask., at the summer games. The 10-year-old is pitching and playing third base for his team at the games.

He said this is his first year playing in the games and the first year he has played softball. He's following in his family's footsteps by playing the game.

"My brothers and sisters have played softball in the summer games, so I just wanted to try it out," Morin said. "I just like how you can play the game and how you can meet new people." 

Submitted by Lyndon McKay

Lyndon McKay coaches track and field but he's really helping out wherever he's needed.

He's also in an interesting position in the sense that he grew up playing for the Yorkton Tribal Council team, but his daughters are playing for the Southeast Treaty 4 Tribal Council.

When those teams match up, McKay said he doesn't know who to cheer for. 

"I'm just going to sit in the middle and just cheer for everybody I guess," McKay said. 

McKay sees the games as a valuable resource for Indigenous people across the province to build and improve themselves while learning something they haven't tried yet. He added there are two athletes competing in track for the first time and are doing "quite well." 

"So for the kids too, it must be a huge boost of confidence to get out there and represent your community, your team, yourself."