The countdown for the 2020 North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) kicked off in Halifax Friday.
This is the first time the games will be hosted in Mi’kma’ki territory.
It will be the largest sporting event Atlantic Canada has seen.
“This is history,” said Mike Savage, mayor of Halifax.
“This is Mi’kma’ki, let’s make it and let’s make it big!”
NAIG 2020 will be the 30th anniversary of the games.
The first were held in Edmonton in 1990.
NAIG draws thousands of Indigenous athletes from all over Turtle Island for sports such as lacrosse, archery, volleyball, and badminton.
Athletes are looking forward to the games but also so much more.
“I find it’s very interesting only competing against all Aboriginal people” said Johanna Edwards, from Team Nova Scotia. “You sort of feel like you’re all together and family.”
Her teammate Faith Battiste agreed.
”There are so many people from different from so many different communities and cultures, it’s amazing,” said Battiste.
The athletes will spend the next year getting ready for the sport but the organizers also stressed the importance sharing cultural experiences.
“It’s a beautiful celebration of culture, music, sport, dance in the spirit of competition,” said Kevin Sandy, CEO of 2020 NAIG. “It is also infused with the cultural side of it. That’s really what the games represent to me.
“The spirit and beauty of who we are as Indigenous people from across the world”
The games will take place from July 12 to 19, 2020, with 5,000 participants competing in 17 sports.
There will be venues in Halifax and the Millbrook First Nation, an hour north of the city.
The region is expecting a big economic boost.
In 2017 the NAIG games in Toronto contributed 44 million dollars to the local economy.