Indigenous girls on Prince Edward Island are encouraged to play sports they love, including hockey.
An Indigenous Girls Hockey Jamboree was held in Charlottetown on Saturday, hosted by the Miꞌkmaq Confederation of the PEI’s Aboriginal Sports Circle, which brings together Indigenous youth from all nations through sports. Girls between the ages of six and 14 took part.
“We just wanted to get the girls together to learn some skills from our hockey leaders,” said Lynn Anne Hogan, the athletic circuit manager.
The jamboree also had a cultural component. After their exercises, the girls had a workshop in traditional porcupine quill art. They also had a session from a sports nutritionist to learn how to fuel their bodies for exercise.
Hogan said young Indigenous girls are not involved enough in sports.
“We’re really trying to do our utmost to work with our First Nation communities to improve opportunities for young Indigenous girls to be active, be healthy and exercise,” she said.
“Events like this can break down some of those barriers when it comes to cost and access to sport.”
Seven girls from PEI’s two First Nations – Lennox Island and Abegweit – attended Saturday’s event, and one even came from Nova Scotia because she cannot attend the event in that province.
The girls were coached by Indigenous players, including Charlottetown’s Kiara LaBobe, who has played minor hockey since 6th grade, starting with a boys’ team. For three years she played at the Midget AAA level with Team Atlantic in the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships.
“When I interfered [Team Atlantic] It was an instant connection because they all have the same culture as me,” she said. “It was nice to connect with people I can identify with.
“I think it’s really important for Indigenous girls to stay in hockey because you’re going to find connections like that and you’re going to make bonds and friendships… Hockey is an amazing sport where you get to meet people from all over the world.”
LaBobe said teaching the young girls on Saturdays “feels great.”
“I love watching other kids grow,” she says. “I’m glad I can help with that, even just a little bit.”
Erin Denny, an Eskasoni First Nation hockey player in Nova Scotia who plays hockey for Saint Mary’s University, also helped coach.
“I honestly love it because I didn’t have that when I was younger,” Denny said. “To create a space where they can be with people like them and have that comfort zone.”
The girls who took part in the jamboree are already registered for small hockey. Hogan said she hopes it inspires her to stay in the sport.
“We hope that other young girls who see these girls on the ice will be encouraged and inspired by other community members … to get involved in the sport and that it’s a safe place for them to have a lot of fun.”
This is the first that even the sports circle has been able to have since the pandemic began.
The organization received $8,500 from ParticipACTION’s Community Better Challenge, a national physical activity initiative that encourages Canadians to take action together. The money will be used to organize three such events for girls in the Maritimes.
Hogan said the county wants to build its PEI team for the North American Indigenous Games, which will be held in Halifax in 2023.