A new Indigenous sports research project that could potentially influence Sport Canada decisions has been launched.
Earlier this summer, an Indigenous-owned company called Archipel Research and Consulting Inc. won a tender to conduct a project it calls “Indigenous Peoples in Sport: A Research and Data Plan.”
One of the goals of the project is to try to get a sense of the number of aboriginal athletes participating in sports across the country.
Another goal of the project is to better understand how to identify the needs of Aboriginal athletes participating in sports across the country.
Saber Pictou Lee, CEO of Archipel Research and Consulting, said the research project hopes to answer the question of what sports mean to Indigenous peoples.
“It’s that springboard to help connect those worlds,” Pictou Lee said of the project.
To assist in the project, the organizers will consult with researchers, athletes, coaches, officials and representatives of Indigenous and non-Indigenous sports organizations.
Pictou Lee said his company’s research project is a continuation of work already being done by Indigenous scholars and leaders across the country who want to change the field of sport in Canada.
The resulting report, Aboriginal Sport Circle: An Aboriginal Research Initiative, is not currently available to the public.
This work was led by Dr. Janice Forsyth, a former professor at Western University in London, Ontario, who is now a professor in the Indigenous Physical Culture and Wellness Program at the University of British Columbia.
Pictou Lee said his company’s research work will include hosting four virtual sharing circles in September.
“We are aiming for a total attendance of 40 people,” said Pictou Lee, who is from the Mi’kmaq community of Eel River Bar First Nation in northern New Brunswick.
“But that doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll have 10 people in each group.”
All sharing circles will last two hours.
“We have identified a list of individuals for each group,” Pictou Lee said.
The first Sharing Circle, which will take place on September 6, will include representatives from Indigenous sports organizations from across Canada.
The next session, which will take place on September 8, will feature representatives of non-Indigenous sport groups from across the country.
A sharing circle on September 13 will then see the participation of Indigenous researchers. And the last online meeting is scheduled for September 15. It will include Indigenous athletes, coaches and officials.
Pictou Lee said project organizers may have to conduct one-on-one interviews with some participants if they cannot attend one of the virtual sessions.
Once all the available data has been compiled, a report will then be written, with recommendations, and then sent to Sport Canada.
“The report will be delivered to Sport Canada by December,” said Pictou Lee.
One of the objectives of the project is to ensure that its recommendations are taken into account by Sport Canada officials for its future programming.
The research component of the project will be led by an Indigenous Advisory Group (IAG), which includes elders, knowledge keepers and others.
So far, the IAG is made up of nine people, including Forsyth, the current vice-president of the Aboriginal Sport Circle.
Other IAG members include Brigette Lacquette and Waneek Horn-Miller.
Lacquette became the first First Nations woman to represent Canada in hockey at the 2018 Winter Olympics. And Horn-Miller is a former water polo player. She is a Mohawk who captained the Canadian women’s water polo team at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
Desiree Isaac-Pictou, wheelchair basketball athlete and business administration student at the University of New Brunswick, is also a member of the IAG.
Other members of the advisory group are Amanda Larocque, Wally Samuel, Dr. Margaret Kovach, Shane Keepness and Dr. Lynn Lavallee.
Larocque is Director of Health and Social Services at Gesgapegiag Health & Community Services in Quebec.
Samuel is an Elder who also sits on the board of the Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity & Recreation Council of British Columbia.
Kovach is an expert in Indigenous research methodologies and a professor at the University of British Columbia.
Keepness is a Lecturer in Indigenous Studies at the First Nations University of Canada.
And Lavallee is the Indigenous Resurgence Strategic Lead for the Faculty of Community Services at Metropolitan University of Toronto.
By Sam Laskaris, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com