Coach Alex Nelson, flanked by dancer/athlete Gary Sam, speaks about the importance of athleticism, identity and teamwork for youth competing in the North American Indigenous Games. Kristyn Anthony/VICTORIA NEWS

Island First Nations officially bids to host 2020 North American Indigenous Games

Greater Victoria last welcomed athletes to compete on traditional lands in 1997

In a presentation of song, dance and sport, the Songhees Nation announced Monday that an official bid will be made to host the 2020 North American Indigenous Games in Greater Victoria.

Songhees Chief Ron Sam said bringing the Games to the home of the Lekwungen speaking peoples is a chance to showcase athleticism and culture, but also provides an economic boom to the area.

“These are transformational experiences for everyone,” he said. “Particularly for our youth, for whom we must all work to ensure that they have a future filled with pride, optimism, opportunity, health and prosperity.”

Victoria last played host to the Games in 1997, inviting athletes in the thousands to “experience what it is like to be celebrated for our distinctive culture and athleticism,” Sam said.

Athletes aged 14 to 19 compete in 3-D archery, badminton, baseball, basketball, box lacrosse, golf, soccer, softball, swimming, rifle-shooting, volleyball and wrestling, as well canoe and kayaking, in the name of respect and friendship.

In 2017, the Songhees Nation sent seven athletes to the Indigenous Games in Toronto, bringing home three gold medals, and one bronze, as part of Team B.C.

RELATED: Victoria considers 2020 North American Indigenous Games bid

Michael Maresca, a lacrosse participant in the 2014 and 2017 Games, described it as “a dream come true” to compete in the Iroquois arena on the land where the sport was first given to the people of the Ha`degaenage.

“Traditionally, lacrosse is known as the ‘medicine game’ for its ability to heal and bring joy and happiness to both those who play and watch the game and I believe that to be true,” Maresca said.

Ottawa, Halifax and Winnipeg are also vying for the 2020 Games, which are projected to cost more than $7 million and are expected to generate at least twice as much in revenues.

The decision is expected to be announced later this year.

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