The volunteers behind the North American Indigenous Games

Among the 12,000 sport, culture and recreation programs funded by the Sask Lotteries Trust Fund, the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) captures a unique combination of sport and culture.

In 2023, Team Saskatchewan, compiled of more than 500 athletes and over 130 volunteers captured the championship title at the 10th edition of NAIG in various venues across Kjipuktuk (Halifax), Dartmouth, Millbrook First Nation and Sipeke’katik in Nova Scotia.

For NAIG to take place, it takes numerous individuals volunteering their time and energy in the different regions, to bring together an event that unites people, from across North America.

NAIG is held once every four years, but the work behind the scenes never fully comes to end for the host and provinces. Once the multi-sport event concludes, the preparation for the following one begins.

Team Saskatchewan’s Chef de Mission works alongside countless others to organize over 50 different teams. The volunteers set the scene for each NAIG and are the individuals who bring the event to life for Saskatchewan’s athletes.

“NAIG provides an incredible experience for anyone involved and brings together a lot of people from across Turtle Island.”

Team Saskatchewan Chef de Mission, Mike Tanton

Mike Tanton has volunteered as Chef de Mission for seven Games, prioritizing an atmosphere that combines the competition of sport with the celebration of Indigenous culture.

“The cultural portion of [NAIG] adds so much and makes it that much more meaningful,” shared Tanton.

“We see the kids when they come from their communities. We see them as they train leading up to the Games and at the Games – seeing their excitement – those are the things that keep me involved.”

Volunteers can take on various roles, anything from organizing travel to staying on location with athletes.

“We had volunteers that were up and at the airport at 4 a.m. to make sure the kids were able to get through security and to their flights. They stayed there all day to make sure every team was checked in correctly.

“[The volunteers]really worked on establishing a relationship with our partners that we were working with, like WestJet. We want them to look at our kids as theirs, because if they are doing that the kids will be in good hands.”

Tanton advocates the importance of establishing a family environment for the duration of NAIG. His dedication to creating a positive environment for the kids shines through each step of the preparation process.

“Volunteers are with the kids 24/7, for nine days straight. The family atmosphere lets people know that you care.”

Team Saskatchewan’s volunteers become family to each other and the athletes, prioritizing their well-being during training, up until they return home following the Games.

Tanton’s philosophy suggests that when things are done for family, it is being done in the best way possible.

NAIG is a unique event that gathers people from all areas. The volunteer team is a collection of individuals with various skills and prior experiences.

For 33 years, Team Saskatchewan has been built on a foundation of volunteers.

“Coaches, coordinators, chaperones, team managers, all of them are volunteers and are a part of the team right from the start,” explained Tanton.

Brenda Ahenakew and Eugene Arcand have volunteered their time since first founding the team in 1990. The two now share the guidance team role with Chief Larry Ahenakew and Lorna Arcand as overseers of the steering committee, coordinators, coaches and managers.

The guidance team is in place to bring forward generations of experience and knowledge regarding the Games, as well as guiding current volunteers through cultural protocol.

“NAIG provides an incredible experience for anyone involved and brings together a lot of people from across Turtle Island.”

Without the support of volunteers, NAIG would not be the event that it is today.

Métis local connects community through moccasin-making

Written by: Nickita Longman on behalf of SaskCulture | April 2023

Providing a moccasin-making workshop that eliminated barriers to participation, one that was delivered by a member of the local Métis community, and one that had volunteer and community support, was important to Carla Hope, activity organizer and president of Kinistino Metis Local #43.

Last fall, the Métis Local organized a moccasin-making workshop to revitalize cultural teachings and traditions within its community. Hope wanted to ensure that all members were able to participate without barriers. This included providing a space to gather, providing all supplies necessary, and full access to an instructor.

“This project meets our communities’ need for multi-generational interaction and the sharing of traditional skills and knowledge,” Hope says.

Ronda McQuarrie, a local traditional beader, who has led many moccasin-making workshops previously, eagerly joined the project as an instructor and facilitator. “I have a passion for beading and creating cultural wearable art,” she says. “I feel it is important to keep these traditional art forms alive and pass them on to other people.”

The community recognized the importance as well and the workshop filled up quickly hosting 21 participants – the largest group McQuarrie has instructed within her facilitation work. “It was great to see our youth, adults, Elders and non-Indigenous people socializing and creating together.”

Participants were able to work with moose hide, beaver fur and glass seed beads. With the help and guidance of McQuarrie, they were all able to produce a pair of authentic, hand-stitched, traditional Métis, floral-beaded moccasins, created specifically in a Métis beading style.

“The participants really seemed to enjoy the class and were very happy with their completed moccasins,” she says. “I have had a few people ask me questions since about making more moccasins. [There is a] definite interest in participating in future projects like this one.”

As with any successful event, volunteers, also referred to as ‘Helpers’ in Indigenous communities, played a big role in the delivery of the moccasin-making workshop. McQuarrie says that, the helpers for an event, such as the beading workshop, are largely family and relatives of members of the local who regularly donate their time for community gatherings and events. “Most of this is very informal,” she explains, “and if there is a need for something to get done, they just seem to step up and do it.”

Furthermore, McQuarrie shares, that she is also a volunteer. Her knowledge and skill-set to refine beadwork and moccasin-making, as well as the preparation involved to facilitate, are all done on her own time.

With a successful turnout and eager participants, McQuarrie says that many have continued to work on their beading skills outside of the workshop. “They are taking up this art form and embracing this aspect of their culture,” she says. “They are now able to share it with their children and grandchildren. This class could lead to an intergenerational sharing of culture.”

McQuarrie hopes that more projects like this will continue to happen in her community so she can share her gift with others. “I would love to be able to teach a class on [making] gauntlet mitts, and continue to teach different beading techniques to the community.”

This project received support through the Métis Cultural Development Fund, administered by Gabriel Dumont Institute on behalf of SaskCulture, and funded by Sask Lotteries Trust Fund for Sport, Culture and Recreation.

Charlie Biemans dedicates himself to his community

This volunteer recognition story and photo is courtesy of the Prairie Central District for Sport, Culture and Recreation 

Volunteers have the ability to adapt to the particular needs of an organization and situation. Charlie Biemans stands as an example of the diverse skills exhibited by Saskatchewan volunteers. 

For 43 years, Biemans has dedicated himself Englefeld’s community through numerous roles at the local school.  

In his free time, he has followed his passion for sport and coached youth in baseball, softball, volleyball, track, badminton, soccer, hockey and curling.  

Biemans continues to take the lead role in making the curling and skating ice for winter activities in the local arena. He manages the rink schedules, ice rentals, opening and closing, cleaning and maintenance, and ensuring the kitchen is fully stocked with supplies. 

He has an ability to create community, as Biemans has planned evenings at the local rink that feature burgers and free skating. 

Over the years, Charlie has spent time on the Englefeld Rec Board, village council and has supported the installation of new playground equipment at the park as well as renovations to the arena. 

“Englefeld is a better place because of the countless hours of volunteer time Charlie dedicates to the community. He is the driving force behind the Rec Board,” said fellow community member, Deanna Miskolczi. “As soon as one community event is over, Charlie is already talking about the next one!” 

In December 2023, Charlie was recognized with a Volunteer Recognition Award from the Prairie Central District for Sport, Culture and Recreation. Congratulations, Charlie! 

National Volunteer Week April 14-20

Saskatchewan’s 330,000 volunteers are a vital part of the foundation that makes up Saskatchewan’s sport, culture and recreation system. From April 14-20, celebrated under the theme of “Every Moment Matters,” volunteers will be recognized nationwide for their contributions. For 50 years, Sask Lotteries has funded volunteer led sport, culture and recreation programs in the province and it is through the contribution of volunteers that we can make a difference.

Sask Lotteries knows that every second a volunteer gives to the community, an innumerable number of individuals feel the impact. As part of the celebration, Sask Lotteries, along with Sask Sport is saying thank you to the volunteers in Saskatchewan, who help make the 12,000 lottery-funded sport, culture and recreation activities possible.

When thanking volunteers on social media, organizations are encouraged to use the hashtags: #NVW2024, #EveryMomentMatters.

For more information on the week and access to National Volunteer Week assets, check out SaskSport.ca

Sask Lotteries celebrates 50 years of support sport, culture and recreation

Sask Lotteries is celebrating 50 years as the main fundraiser for more than 12,000 sport, culture and recreation groups in communities across Saskatchewan.

Since 1974, lottery sales in Saskatchewan have been used to provide more than $1.4 billion to support athletes from the grassroots level to the international stage, connect youth to artistic experiences, help residents experience the beauty of the parks that cover the province and much more.  

The funding is made possible thanks to a long-standing agreement with the Government of Saskatchewan to direct proceeds from the sale of lottery products to sport, culture and recreation organizations.

“Sask Lotteries funding has touched every community across Saskatchewan during the last 50 years,” said Bill Kinash, Chair, Sask Sport and Sask Lotteries volunteer-led Board of Directors. “Almost everyone I speak to has seen their lives positively impacted by this fundraiser. We cannot wait to see what the next 50 years will bring.”

Throughout 2024, Sask Lotteries will celebrate its rich history in the province and share the stories of the beneficiaries of this fundraiser on its website and social media through winning numbers. Some of these winning numbers include celebrating the 196 Saskatchewan athletes who have attended the Olympic and Paralympic Games since 1976, multiple opportunities for cultural activities create over 1.6 million participants annually and the over 430 regional and community park spaces across the province. The 1,000 retailers across the province will also be celebrated for their part in the lottery sales that help generate the distributed funds.

Sask Lotteries has a humble beginning.  

To help fundraise against the rising costs of amateur sport, Sask Sport, a volunteer-led organization, wanted to run a lottery. To be granted the lottery licence by the Government of Saskatchewan, founding volunteers Cas Pielak and Joe Kanuka agreed to sign a promissory note to help start a lottery fundraising program. The first lottery in Saskatchewan was a success and eventually led to the Western Canada Lottery Corporation being established.  In 1974, it was determined that the funds would be placed into the Sask Lotteries Trust Fund and would be distributed to sport, culture and recreation groups as designated by the Government of Saskatchewan.

This arrangement remains, 50 years later.

Saskatchewan Multicultural Week

The Government of Saskatchewan, Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan (MCoS), and many municipalities celebrate Saskatchewan Multicultural Week from November 18-26 as an opportunity to recognize our diversity, the benefits of multiculturalism, and demonstrate the five streams of multicultural work that are at the basis of our ongoing efforts at creating communities where everyone feels a sense of belonging and is able to fully contribute.

This year’s theme – “Celebrate Community, Honour Diversity, Act for Equity” encourages us to share and celebrate stories of community, diversity and equity that enrich Saskatchewan communities.

The Saskatchewan Multiculturalism Act, recognizes the rights of every community to retain its identity, language and traditional arts and sciences for the mutual benefit of all citizens. MCoS further promotes the need to address racism and injustice, and to celebrate our diversity as collective strength in building welcoming and inclusive communities.

Learn more about the week’s activities on spra.sk.ca.

Culture Days – a celebration of arts, culture and creativity

Culture Days is a national celebration of arts, culture and creativity that takes place each Fall. Its aim is to raise awareness, accessibility, participation and engagement of Canadians in the arts and cultural life of their communities. With the support of volunteer groups at the national, provincial and local levels, hundreds of thousands of artists, cultural workers, organizations and groups, volunteers and supporters self-mobilize to host free participatory public activities that take place in hundreds of cities and towns throughout the country each fall.

Culture Days in 2024 will take place Sept. 20 – Oct. 13.

Culture Days Saskatchewan on Instagram

Visit saskculture.ca to find out how you can get involved.

SaskCulture collaborates on new funding program for BPOC artists

To help ensure that Saskatchewan’s Black and People of Colour (BPOC) communities had access to arts funding that met their needs, a partnership of funding agencies collaborated with community members to discuss, design and deliver the new Building Equity in the Arts funding program. The new funding program, launched October 24, was created by the community and breaks down barriers to new and important arts opportunities.

Funding partners, SK Arts, SaskCulture and the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan (MCoS) collaborated with members of the BPOC community to develop this new funding program. The new program aims to attract artists, collective groups and art leaders of African, Black, Asian, Latin American, Caribbean and Middle Eastern descent. The new program has two deadlines annually — February 1 and July 1 — and provides funding of up to $5,000 in funding to individual applicants.

Specifically designed to reach new members of the BPOC community, the program requires applicants to have previously accessed no more than $10,000 of SK Arts funding eligible under this stream. Organizations are also ineligible.

The Building Arts Equity program, funded by SK Arts and Sask Lotteries, is the second participatory grant-making program to be launched by SK Arts this year.

Learn more about the grant on saskculture.ca

Renewed lottery agreement benefits Saskatchewan communities

This afternoon, the Government of Saskatchewan, Sask Sport, SaskCulture and the Saskatchewan Parks and Recreation Association signed a renewed lottery distribution agreement, continuing a longstanding and successful partnership.

The renewed agreement guarantees that proceeds from lottery ticket sales will continue to support sport, culture and recreation across the province for the next six years. Saskatchewan has authorized lottery tickets to be used as a dedicated fundraiser for sport, culture and recreation since 1974.

“Lottery funding ultimately touches every person in our province, whether it’s getting active in sports and recreational activities, experiencing the creative arts, or participating in cultural events that celebrate our diversity,” Parks, Culture and Sport Minister Laura Ross said. “These programs are made possible through our partners and a vast network of community volunteers, who deliver experiences that help make Saskatchewan the best places to live, work and raise a family.”  

Funding from Sask Lotteries benefits over 12,000 sport, culture and recreation groups throughout the province. For the 2022-23 fiscal year, approximately $60 million from the Sask Lotteries Trust Fund was granted to organizations across Saskatchewan.

“On behalf of Sask Sport and its volunteers, I am grateful for the continued partnership of a lottery agreement with the Government of Saskatchewan,” Sask Sport Chair Michael Rogers said. “As a parent and participant in sport, every day I see how the funds generated through the agreement benefit Saskatchewan residents and positively impacts communities. A multi-year agreement gives stability for planning for all beneficiary groups to continue creating opportunities that make Saskatchewan vibrant for everyone.”

“Lottery funding is so important to ensuring that cultural activity adds to the quality of life of individuals and families in this province,” SaskCulture Board Chair Jan Seibel said. “From attending a musical to learning a traditional dance, or joining a writing group, or perhaps, exploring a museum, many people look forward to accessing cultural programs, events and services as a regular part of their lives.  As a whole, these types of activities help shape the Saskatchewan experience.  We are very pleased with the renewal of this agreement, and government’s commitment to helping ensure that an even greater diversity of peoples can engage in cultural and creative pursuits that contribute to a culturally vibrant province.”

“The government’s continued support of recreation, culture, and sport speaks volumes about the value created by our industries’ collective work,” Saskatchewan Parks and Recreation Association Board President, Jody Boulet said that. “We are honoured to be tasked with enhancing quality of life for Saskatchewan people through parks and recreation for another six years and beyond.”

The agreement allows continued investments in strategic priority areas, such as engaging diverse and equity-deserving populations; supporting access to safe and welcoming sport, culture and recreation communities; and encouraging well-being and active lifestyles.

Volunteerism a strong connector in the Ukrainian community

For the Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Saskatoon Branch, much like so many cultural organizations throughout Saskatchewan, volunteers are the reason the organization exists, and why the community remains connected.

“Volunteers are an integral part of our organization and without them, we wouldn’t be able to do everything we do,” says Megan Worobetz, vice president, and a volunteer board member, Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Saskatoon Branch (Saskatoon UCC) since 2018.

New to the Saskatoon UCC Board, Karen Pidskalny says the Ukrainian communities throughout the world are built in a foundation of volunteerism. “It’s about building community and staying connected within your community.” The Saskatoon UCC is a federation of organizations within Saskatoon that assists Saskatoon’s Ukrainian community in maintaining, developing and sharing its Ukrainian Canadian identity and aspirations. They are a member of the provincial and national UCC.

“We are the voice of the Ukrainian community in Saskatoon. UCC Saskatchewan brings all the Ukrainian organizations in the province together in one body as an umbrella organization. That way everyone can hear what everyone else is doing. And I can tell you in the Ukrainian community, everybody is doing something,” laughs Pat Tymchatyn, now Saskatoon UCC President and long-time board member.

Saskatoon UCC received project support through the Multicultural Initiatives Fund, funded by Sask Lotteries Trust Fund for Sport, Culture and Recreation.

Read full story on saskculture.ca