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by Isabel Mosseler
Two local youth, Félix Larocque and Rylee Restoule, joined 5000 athletes from across the continent to participate in the 9th North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) held in Toronto this past July 16-23. Both are 16 and going into Grade 11 at É.s. Franco-Cité, and both played for the 16 and under all-Ontario volleyball teams (male and female), one of 14 sports represented at the games.
In addition to participating in an international-intertribal event intended to “unite individuals and communities across North America through sport”, there was a huge cultural component of NAIG featuring a cross section of Indigenous cultures. Various nations shared their dancing, drumming, regalia, stories, and words of welcome while the attendees also enjoyed entertainment from the likes of A Tribe Called Red and Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas. It was an experience the two West Nipissing youth shared with glowing reports of new friendships formed and new insights into their own culture.
Rylee Restoule had the distinction of bearing the flag of Dokis F.N. during the opening ceremonies as a member of that community. Félix Larocque represented Madadjiwan Algonquin First Nation of Mattawa/North Bay. To participate in these games, an athlete must be of Indigenous ancestry.
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Rylee, the daughter of Jamie and Caroline Restoule and Julie Patenaude-Bouffard and Rob Bouffard, explained that tryouts took place across the province. “The one I went to was in Rama,” she said. “I’ve been playing volleyball at school for a few years and when my Dad told me about this I thought it was cool. I never heard of something like this for just Indigenous youth… I feel that over the years there has been a lot of misrepresentation of Indigenous people so it’s cool for young people like us to experience something that lifts us up… The whole purpose was to show that we are able to do things and we’re here because we’re resilient. It was good not just for the sports but for the mental part as well.”
Rylee Restoule (right), aged 16, competed in Women’s Volleyball 16U at the 9th North American Indigenous Games. She was also honoured, as a band member, to carry the Dokis First Nation flag into the opening ceremonies. Rylee is a student at Franco-Cité.
Félix Larocque, age 16, competed in volleyball at the 9th North American Indigenous Games held in Toronto this past July. Félix is a student at Franco-Cité and a member of Madadjiwan Algonquin First Nation of Mattawa/North Bay.