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Youth to compete in multi-sport celebration

Observer Staff

7/5/2006 12:00:00 AM

Eight members of the Saginaw Chippewa community will be joining about 8,000 other athletes at the North American Indigenous Games in Denver from July 2-9.

The delegation-who will be playing for the Michigan Basketball Team-includes Eli Bennett, Terrence "Bear" Isham, David Perez III, Lucas Sprague, Jordan Wilson, Monica Gonzalez, Erica Jamison and Alicia Wilson.

Twenty-three U.S. and 11 Canadian delegations are anticipated to take part in the Games. The Michigan contingency is slated to have 95 athletes. Of the sports offered, basketball drew the highest number of participants with 1,628.

The event is a large-scale multi-sport and culture celebration offering competition in 16 sports for youth between the ages 13-19 and adults ages 20.

Vision for the games can be traced to 1977, when Willie Littlechild, from Alberta, spoke of his dream at the United Nations in Sweden. The vision was shared by Billy Mills, Charles Woods, John Fletcher, Alwyn Morris and Harold Burden. Thirteen years later, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada hosted the first North American Indigenous Games.

There have been a total of five Games, four in Canada and one in Blaine, Minnesota (1995). The event took place last in 2002 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Games were planned in 2005 for Buffalo, N.Y., but cancelled because of financial difficulties.

The oldest continuous residents of Colorado are the Ute Indians. The Colorado Indigenous Games Society gratefully acknowledged that the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute Indian Tribes of Colorado made a leadership gift of $1.2 million and are the host sponsors of the 2006 Games.

"We are pleased to put our support behind the 2006 North American Indigenous Games," stated Southern Ute Tribal Chairman Clement Frost. "We could not think of a better way to honor our indigenous youth."

Ute Mountain Chairman Selwyn Whiteskunk echoed that sentiment.

"It is an honor to help provide an arena of opportunity for Native peoples of the United States and Canada-a chance to gather in our community in the spirit of sport, competition and cultural activities."

The eight-day event is expected to attract over 50,000 families and spectators.