The 61st annual All Native Basketball Tournament kicked off Sunday

Hillary Johnson

The 61st annual All Native Basketball Tournament, being held at the Jim Ciccone Civic Center in Prince Rupert, tipped off on Sunday with a cultural opening ceremony. The jam-packed gymnasium enjoyed cultural themes, dances and music. Teams from all over BC marched in, when announced, to display their team spirit. Tournament Chairman, Peter Haugan says the opening ceremonies are a significant part of the seven day tournament.


"The opening ceremonies is the cultural part where the dance group, from different communities, get a chance to showcase their culture. It's a chance for the local chiefs to address the athletes and the crowd and welcome them to Tsimshian territory."


There are 54 teams competing with 16 groups of ladies, 15 groups in the senior's category, 12 in the masters and the intermediates having 11 groups. Coach for the Lytton Golden Eagles, Patrick Michell, says this is their second year participating in the games. They were the first team eliminated last year and Michell hopes to win a game this year, but he says the team is excited to enjoy all the tournament has to offer.


"Well, the first time around, we got served and the kids we came up with had the time of their lives. As a community, we have fundraised to be here today, to play basketball and to watch good basketball. I know that when we come to a cultural opening like this that the one thing I do expect is tears, shivers and it's going to be absolutely amazing. Coming from the interior plateau, our culture is a little bit different from the coastal and then we got the north coastal and stuff like this so my youth that I’m travelling with will be able to see culture from across BC, all in one place."


Some players and attendees showed their solidarity for the Wet'suwet'en people by wearing t-shirts while some brought awareness to missing and murdered indigenous women and girls with facial markings. Chairman Haugan says the sport brings everyone together, no matter a person's point of view or beliefs.


"The thing that we keep promoting is it's a sporting event. Yes, it’s big and yes we got cultural and social, and we know that in the world that we live in there are lots of people on either side of the fence on everything, but when it comes to sport, this is one thing we can all agree on is come on the court and play by the rules of basketball."


The finals will be held on Saturday, February 15th at 7:30 pm. But no matter who wins or loses, all participants will have gained a cultural and sporting experience they will never forget. This report is brought to you by Kitsumkalum Band Council and Rainbow Chrysler.

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