APTN National News
When Mi’kmaw archer Ryan Francis first picked up a bow and arrow, his goal was to take down a deer.
This week, he’s competing for Team Nova Scotia at the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) in Toronto.
He typically hunts deer with his bow and arrow.
“It’s more challenging than a gun,” he said. “I like just getting out in the woods walking,” said Francis. “I feel a little nervous, but I want to win.”
Darren Prosper is the archery coach for Team NS. He said Francis’ skills in the field will help him at the games.
“The NAIG games are practice for him for hunting season,” said Prosper. “He’s a man of few words, he quiet and shy but he’s a really good archer.”
Francis won gold at the NAIG in 2014 in the U16 category. But these games are different. Namely, 19-year-old Francis is a brand new father. He and his girlfriend had a baby boy, Mason, on Saturday afternoon.
But he said this isn’t about bragging rights. In fact, when Francis won, the medal didn’t see a lot of daylight.
“I didn’t even show the medal off, hid it most of the time,” he said.
He spent as much time as he could with his new son at the hospital before heading home to grab his bag and his bow to make the five-hour drive from Cape Breton to the Halifax airport, stopping for a 20-minute nap on the way.
“I was sad to leave,” said Francis, who can’t wait to get back home.
But Francis is here to win.
When Prosper handed out Team Nova Scotia pins at the opening ceremonies, Francis gave his away to others team mates.
“He said I’m not here to collect pins, I’m here to get a medal,” said Prosper. “So right then and there I knew he had his game face on and he was only here for one thing.”
The 3D archery competition consists of six rounds spread out over three days. The archers go out in groups and walk the course, hitting different targets. The most points wins.
“You got to be able to focus. Get past the nerves, the pressure of it all, especially at NAIG, these big games,” said Prosper. Our team was a little shaky yesterday. But our morning rounds were good today. They’re still in contention after the first day.”
Archery is one of the few sports at these games that have an indigenous cultural and historical connection.
“That’s what I like about it,” said Prosper. “This is what would have happened before, we would have competed in sports like archery more than they would’ve games like soccer, nothing against those sports, but this seems more in tune with indigenous games.”
Prosper said interest in archery is growing in Mi’kmaq communities in Nova Scotia.
“I would love to see more kids get into archery,” he said. I want to encourage more youth to get involved.”
And maybe someday, Francis’ will take his son Mason out with a bow and arrow. If not to compete, to put food on the table in a traditional way.