Treaty Hockey Tournament Recognizes, Celebrates, and Builds on Resiliency

Topics: Alberta, Emergencies and Disasters in Canada
Diana Coulter, Public Information Officer for Alberta Floods recovery) | April 30, 2014

Photo credit: J. Keith Howie

In her colourful Siksika Nation hockey jersey with “Hockey Mama” across the back, Karia Red Gun runs a “loud and proud” family cheering section.

“Let’s go, Bears!,” she shouts across the ice as her son,  13-year-old Marlin Running Rabbit, plays defence for the Siksika Bantam team. By Red Gun’s side are her mother, sister and baby daughter, who all clap, stomp their feet, and jump up and down as action unfolds at the annual Alberta Treaty Hockey Championships.

Held recently in Cochrane, the tournament was dedicated this year to Albertans struggling to recover from the June 2013 floods. Among other First Nations, many Siksika and Stoney Nakoda residents are still rebuilding lives, homes, property and livelihoods impacted by the disaster. From the outset, the Canadian Red Cross has offered assistance to flood-affected communities, working directly with families to identify needs which can include help with household goods, food, school supplies and tools to get people back to work. Red Cross has also provided financial support for various First Nations community initiatives, which included a recent grant of $30,900 to the 2014 Treaty hockey championships.

At the four-day event in April, Red Cross paid entrance fees, which usually cost $10 a day or $25 for the weekend, for about 3,800 people. Red Cross also covered expenses for cultural events and traditional ceremonies.

“The tournament was an important opportunity to recognize, celebrate, and build on the resiliency of First Nations’ people after the disaster,” said Ange Sawh, director of Alberta Flood Operations for the Canadian Red Cross. “People have been through a lot, so it’s great to be able to support them in this way,” said Sawh.

Taking a breather between periods, Red Gun agreed. “Siksika was hit hard, so this tournament is a really good distraction,” she says. “Our family was lucky and didn’t get flooded, but it still affected the whole reserve, the water quality, bridges out, roads destroyed, kids lost all their hockey gear. People are still trying to get their lives back together.”

“The tournament gives people a chance to come together and meet new friends from the First Nations all over Alberta. It’s just unique and important, especially this year after the floods.”

“Yes, thanks so much, Red Cross!,” echoed her mother Angeline Ayoungman. “We love coming to the tournament, but it can get pretty expensive!”

Waiting to play with the Siksika Warriors Midget team, Kobe Manybears, 15, said his family looked forward to the tournament, especially this year “because it’s been so hard for people who lost all their stuff and homes.” At Manybears’ house, two other families are staying with them because of the floods, he said. “So, the tournament is just about fun, being active, feeling good,” said Manybears.

In a nearby arena, mother Jenny Smalleyes watched her two boys, Kelrick, 15, and Alex, 17, play for the Stoney Midget team. During the floods, the boys’ basement bedrooms were swamped and the kids lost everything, she said. The family managed to borrow hockey gear, and for months, doubled-up in upstairs rooms until house repairs finished in February. “It’s been a long time but the kids have been so great. They love sports and it keeps them busy, so they never give me any trouble!,” Smalleyes said with a laugh. “And to have this tournament has been a really big boost for all of us.”