As the fastest-growing segment of the Canadian population, Indigenous youth represent the future of their communities.
As a steward of the Aboriginal Sport, Recreation and Physical Activity Strategy, a comprehensive long-term plan designed to support a healthier future for Indigenous communities, families and individuals throughout British Columbia, the Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity and Recreation Council (I·SPARC) uses sport, physical activity and recreation to share the benefits of living healthy, active lifestyles to help enhance self-esteem, confidence and life skills that translate into positive life choices.
Lara Mussell Savage, the Director of Sport for I·SPARC, says, “I see the power of sport every day. We refer to sport as being good medicine for our communities and our people. It brings life skills and it influences positive choices. It not only improves our physical being, but our spiritual being.”
In 2017, I·SPARC delivered more than 356 youth sport development camps to 200 Indigenous communities, organizations and schools, impacting more than 11,000 youth across British Columbia. As a part of their programming, I·SPARC works with each community to develop youth-inspired activities that meet the needs of that particular community.
Savage says the Build the Field grant from the N7 Fund helps enhance their programs by providing multi-week sports camps and long-term programing, particularly for rural and isolated communities within the province. “Many of these communities have limited access to sport activities,” said Savage. “The funding from N7 helps us reach these folks and helps build capacity.”
In the rural community of Oliver, British Columbia, youth from the Osoyoos Indian Band worked in tandem with I·SPARC to start an Indigenous archery club called the “Twisted Arrows” in 2013. Within the community of just over 500 people, more than 120 kids regularly participate in the archery club. In 2014 and 2017, several of their young archers competed for Team BC at the North American Indigenous Games. For many of the youth in the program, the “Twisted Arrows” club has given them the opportunity to travel and experience new things and places. Their involvement with the program also promotes positive interaction with their community.
“The kids really connect to it, because archery is a part of who we are as it’s a traditional practice that we’ve done for thousands of years,” says team coach Sonya Jensen. “The community is blown away by the success that the team has achieved, and they really like that the kids are connecting to our culture in a positive way.”
Savage says the success of the “Twisted Arrows” club is in great part due to Coach Jensen. “The kids really look up to her and together they have created something wonderful. We’re really grateful to the support from N7 that helps us provide programs like this that allow us to respect cultural protocols through holistic programs with amazing benefits for all involved.”