Hundreds of Indigenous students and athletes are coming together this week in Grassy Narrows First Nation for the return of the Anishinaabe Winter Games.

15 First Nation schools from across northwestern Ontario are taking part.

Mental Wellness Guide and Teacher at Grassy Narrows’ Sakatcheway Anishinaabe School, Sasha Sadrudin, helped organize this year’s event.

He says 200 athletes between the ages of 8 and 20 are travelling to Grassy with 100 coaches and volunteers as the Anishinaabe Winter Games kick off today and run until February 23.

“It’s a big undertaking. We’re looking at 300 people approximately. All of the accommodations are in our classrooms, but the visiting communities are really respectful. It’s all very cordial.”

Sadrudin says planning for the event has been underway since September, and a number of community partners are getting involved – including the Kenora Chiefs Advisory, Treaty #3 Police, Grand Council Treaty #3 and the community’s high-school students.

“It’s truly amazing that all of these communities are coming together, not only for the games, but to support all these youth,” he adds. “We’re all trying to recover out of the pandemic. And everyone’s pitching in.”

On top of broomball, archery and volleyball – athletes will be able to take part in traditional Anishinaabe activities like a trappers’ relay race, a snowshoe race and an Ojibwe scavenger hunt with riddles hidden in the traditional language.

Other activities throughout the week will include a round dance, a snow scene contest created by each school, teachings from a local elder, free skating and much more.

“We’re doing a lot to honour the past and the teachings of the past to support the development of the present, restore the language, so we can have a better future for these kids. That’s one the main objectives of these games,” Sadrudin explains.

In-person Anishinaabe games have been on hold since 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sadrudin notes many schools held their own events over the last two years, but it’s great to see everyone return.

Grand Council Treaty #3 is funding the entire event, including transportation and food costs, and prizes. Every student will also be given a ‘swag bag’ of Anishinaabe Winter Games gear.

“We’re going to go for broke and have a great time. It’s been three years, so let’s do it right. Big thank you to Grand Council for funding it all!”

Participating communities include:

- Grassy Narrows,
- Northwest Angle #37,
- Shoal Lake #39,
- Lac Des Mille Lacs,
- Lac Seul,
- Lac La Croix,
- Eagle Lake,
- Big Grassy River,
- Whitefish Bay,
- Onigaming,
- Shoal Lake #40,
- Wabigoon,
- Wabaseemoong,
- Washagamis Bay,
- Bimose Tribal Council’s Kiizhik School,

Students will be able to participate in:

- Broomball (JR+SR)
- Archery (JR+SR)
- Volleyball (JR+SR)
- Trappers Relay Race (JR+SR)
- Snowshoe Relay Race (SR)
- Ojibwe Scavenger Hunt (JR)