On April 6, the International Day of Sport and Development and Peace (IDSDP), an annual celebration of the power of sport to drive social change, community development and to foster peace and understanding, a significant Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between Yukon First Nations and the Arctic Winter Games.
The Kwanlin Dün First Nation, Ta’an Kwäch’än Council, Council of Yukon First Nations, Arctic Winter Games (AWG) International Committee, and the Whitehorse 2020 Arctic Winter Games Host Society signed the MOU, committing to meaningful engagement in the celebration of sport, culture, languages, and traditions.
“This is the first time in the Yukon that an MOU has been developed between First Nations and the Host Society,” says George Arcand, President of the Whitehorse 2020 AWG Host Society in a release. “We are very pleased to take this step forward in ensuring that First Nations protocols are respected and that they are engaged in all aspects of planning for the 2020 Games.”
“Yukon First Nations play an important role in enhancing the celebration of sport and culture at the 2020 Arctic Winter Games,” says John Flynn, a Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in citizen and President of the AWG International
Committee in a release. “In particular, the Games will provide a great opportunity for First Nations youth to get involved as athletes,
participants, and volunteers.”
The MOU aspires to: afford Yukon First Nations youth, elders and communities the opportunity to volunteer for the Games; recognize and celebrate Yukon First Nations languages, cultures and traditions; and create the opportunity for Yukon First Nations Elders to function as advisors for all youth at Games-time.
Chief of the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council Kristina Kane said sport has always had an important role in First Nations history.
“It’s really an honour and on behalf of the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council we are quite pleased to be a part of this,” said Kane.
“Sport has always been an integral part of the First Nations people, our history. Again, we look forward to the games next year and incorporating our cultures and our values.”
Councillor Sean Smith, of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation, said since it was the IDSDP it was a fitting day to sign the MOU.
“Next year will be a wonderful boon for our community,” said Smith.
“We look forward to welcoming all athletes from all circumpolar countries and cheering the athletes on as they compete in the Games.”
Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations Peter Johnston spoke about the significance of the Games for everybody. As well, he spoke about how the First Nations can influence change in the Games.
“First Nations being involved in the Games allows us to play a different role and we’ve all been there from an athlete and a cultural component,” said Johnston. “I think it is important that we play a role in changing the way the Games are.”
The Arctic Winter Games will begin next March and bring 2,000 athletes and volunteers to Whitehorse. The Games are also expected to bring over 3,000 visitors to the territory.
Some benefits of the Games includes sport development throughout the North as well as Northern unity and cultural understanding.
The IDSDP creates a historical link to the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, this day was declared by the United Nations(UN) General Assembly in 2013, and has been celebrated each year since 2014.