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Hand games prove popular for everyone
It seems Aboriginal hand games are picking up in popularity in northern Alberta, and it isn’t just in First Nations culture.
Rosary school in Manning, an hour north of Peace River, is finding that interest in the games is high among all the students. Most of the students aren’t even Aboriginal.
“We have these hand games tournaments for the kids. zThey love being a part of something bigger. The kids that play these games show a strong commitment to the game practices, great leadership skills and they work well as a team,” said Tally Robinson, First Nations Métis Inuit co-ordinator at Rosary school. “As well as being able to represent their schools with pride, they also get to meet students from other areas.”
It was the popularity of the games that led her to volunteer the school to host the divisional hand games tournament for north western Alberta.
At a hand games tournament last year, Robinson noticed the student reaction and felt it herself. “It was lots of fun, the kids loved it,” she said.
In fact at Rosary school, the hand games are so popular they have to limit the grades that participate in events, Robinson said. Most schools in the Holy Family Catholic School Division, which has made hand games part of the curriculum, involve students from grades three up. Rosary, with limited Aboriginal students, starts at grade four so they can handle the flow.
“Everyone loves it, Aboriginal or not,” said Robinson.
Because there are few reservations around Manning, they had a hard time finding Elders to teach the students the games.
“Any Elders we do have, they’re so shy,” said Robinson.
They managed however, and the March 4 tournament had ample First Nations involvement. The Driftpile Drummers were booked for the drumming, with member Devon Bellerose acting as master of ceremonies and giving the keynote speech.
Dave Militpi carved the medallions out of moose antlers that winning teams were given. New this year is a larger medallion, also moose, that will be displayed by the winning school and passed around every year like a cup.
“He’s helped us out a lot,” said Robinson.
Dave Cummings delivered the opening prayer and the grand opening was led by all the different banners.
Prizes are also awarded to the team that is the best mover and chanter.
Each team was made of four members, plus a spare and a coach.
Community members were welcomed to watch the tournament, which had eight games going simultaneously. School classes continued during the tournament, with the exception of physical education because the games were held in the school gymnasium.
All told, 160 students were scheduled to be part of the games, coming from seven schools in the Holy Family division.
Photo Caption: Taylor Couterier, in grade 7 at Rosary School, in Manning, played the wolf hand drum at the hand games tournament last year.
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