Why is Indigenous History Month Important in Sports?

Indigenous History Month, #NIHM2023, is an important time in Canadian society to reflect on the work we must do to better commit to reconciliation in all areas, including sport.  

What is the importance of National Indigenous History Month?  

June is National Indigenous History Month in Canada, an opportunity to learn about the unique cultures, traditions and experiences of First Nations, Inuit and Métis. It’s a time to honour the stories, achievements and resilience of Indigenous Peoples, who have lived on this land since time immemorial and whose presence continues to impact the evolving Canada. 

Why is Indigenous History Month important in sports? 

Indigenous people experience sport in unique ways. This includes benefits such as anti-racist, feminist, and Indigenous activism, cultural and historical value and enhanced holistic health and well-being. Yet, Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people face many barriers that prevent them from accessing the full benefits of sport, including racism, stereotypes and limited accommodation.  

Recently in sport, we’ve witnessed how racism and lack of education harmed NHL player Zach Whitecloud in a shining moment on the ice.  

Despite these challenges, change is happening to create more equitable spaces for Indigenous athletes, coaches and sport leaders: 

On the 94 Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action, there are five addressed to sport. These calls outline the direct needs from Indigenous leaders on how we can begin to build a sport system with a foundation on reconciliation and respect. 

  • 87. We call upon all levels of government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, sports halls of fame, and other relevant organizations, to provide public education that tells the national story of Aboriginal athletes in history. 
  • 88. We call upon all levels of government to take action to ensure long-term Aboriginal athlete development and growth, and continued support for the North American Indigenous Games, including funding to host the games and for provincial and territorial team preparation and travel. 
  • 89. We call upon the federal government to amend the Physical Activity and Sport Act to support reconciliation by ensuring that policies to promote physical activity as a fundamental element of health and well-being, reduce barriers to sports participation, increase the pursuit of excellence in sport, and build capacity in the Canadian sport system, are inclusive of Aboriginal peoples. 
  • 90. We call upon the federal government to ensure that national sports policies, programs, and initiatives are inclusive of Aboriginal peoples, including, but not limited to, establishing: In collaboration with provincial and territorial governments, stable funding for, and access to, community sports programs that reflect the diverse cultures and traditional sporting activities of Aboriginal peoples. An elite athlete development program for Aboriginal athletes.Programs for coaches, trainers, and sports officials that are culturally relevant for Aboriginal peoples. Anti-racism awareness and training programs. 
  • 91. We call upon the officials and host countries of international sporting events such as the Olympics, Pan Am, and Commonwealth games to ensure that Indigenous peoples’ territorial protocols are respected, and local Indigenous communities are engaged in all aspects of planning and participating in such events. 

Canadian Women & Sport has advocated passionately for an equitable and inclusive sport system that empowers women and girls for the past forty years. We are continuously learning and recognize the privilege we have in our position within the sport system. As settlers, we will continue to learn from Indigenous sport leaders and organizations in this space as we embark on our mission: creating an equitable and inclusive Canadian sport and physical activity system that empowers girls and women – as active participants and leaders – within and through sport. 

Taking Action: Accessing Resources during Indigenous History Month 

Are you a sport leader looking to gain knowledge on ways to create a safer, more equitable sport system for Indigenous participants in your community? Check out the resources we’ve compiled below. While this list is a good starting point, the journey of allyship and education is lifelong. We hope you’ll use the skills and tools below as a stepping stone in your journey of continuous learning.  

The Sporting Experiences of BIPOC Women & Girls in Canada – Canadian Women & Sport 

One solution does not work for all women and girls in sport. While more research is needed on the experience of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) in sport, we know that they experience sport in unique ways. If we don’t acknowledge this, we risk building more barriers to equity. Download the free publication. 

Aboriginal Coaching Program (ACP) – Aboriginal Sport Circle 

Coaches play a key role not only on the field of play but as agents of social change in Indigenous communities. Their guidance can have a direct and lasting impact on the healthy and active lifestyles of community members, especially youth. 

As creators and stewards of the Aboriginal Coaching Program (ACP), the Aboriginal Sport Circle (ASC) and the Coaching Association of Canada (CAC) have made it a priority to educate, promote the value of, and establish Indigenous participation in the National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP). 

Canadian Indigenous Culture Training – Truth and Reconciliation Edition – Sport for Life 

This edition has been designed in accordance with the Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action (2015) and includes information about the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal-Crown relations. 

This course has been developed by the Indigenous Leadership Development Institute of Canada. 

Stepping Stones to Indigenous Sport and Physical Activity Participation – Sport for Life 

The Stepping Stones to Indigenous Sport and Physical Activity Participation E-Learning Course has been designed for coaches and sport leaders. The purpose of this training is to: 

  • Increase knowledge of the stages of the Indigenous Long-Term Participant Development Pathway. 
  • Help coaches and leaders better understand the needs of Indigenous participants and athletes, including First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. 
  • Enhance coaches and leaders’ ability to run developmentally and holistically appropriate programs for Indigenous participants and athletes. 

Please check back here regularly for an updated list of events during June 2023. If you have information on events that you’d like to share, please email info@womenandsport.ca to have them featured on the site.