Yellowknife Catholic Schools Regional Youth Territorial Handgames Tournament held on February 2 and 3, 2018 was a huge success! The Regional Handgames tournament hosted by YCS, came about through interest from our Indigenous students and families to increase cultural awareness by creating an event that showcases Dene culture in a fun and positive environment.
Handgames is a traditional game played between two teams or communities. It was originally a way communities and people were able to trade goods, dog teams or their supplies. One team tries to outwit and hide objects from the other team. The opposing team works to guess hidden objects while earning sticks to keep score. There are three rounds of play. Drums are played powerfully in this game with lots of movement (teasing) by players to fool and/or intimidate their opponents.
Traditional Handgames had started to disappear, however, there has been a resurgence and growth in popularity over the last few years in many communities. It has become a very competitive sport, sometimes with large prizes, but always with the personal pride and honour of being the winning team.
Through the two day tournament, we are able to provide a positive environment that reflects the rich cultural history of the region. One high school parent called on Monday to let the school know, "Lately my child has been disconnected from the school. He doesn't always want to show off his culture. This was such a positive thing for him. He was so excited to be part of this. He is still drumming around the house and excited to play again, this has connected him back to the school again."
This year Traditional Games were added to the tournament to provide an opportunity for other students to be part of the games as well. This was graciously done in coordination with the Aboriginal Sports Circle. Northern youth were invited to participate in four events: one-foot high kick, wrist hang, triple jump and stick pull. Youth were separated into the same age divisions as Handgames. There was over 40 youth that participated in these events. Students were scored and given points based on their overall performance in each event. "It was so fun to try these sports! I knew I could try them but I'm actually pretty good at them too. Next year I know which ones I'm' gonna get better at!"
The community support for this event has been amazing! Dominion Diamond Mines has been the proud sponsor of our "Diamond Dinners" by providing all meals during the tournament for participants, drummers, and coaches. This includes breakfast, lunch, and suppers. We received financial contributions from a number of organizations, which are always greatly appreciated in making an event like this happen, and fun "swag" from community organizations and companies for the students and drummers.
The Regional Youth Handgames and Traditional Games Tournament provides an opportunity to showcase Dene and Inuit culture in a fun and exciting environment, and includes not only YCS students but our families, our staff and our community. We were able to support the skills and talents of both our Northern students and Indigenous youth in a unique and positive way.
An elder that attended on Friday night said, "After (being in) residential schools I never thought I'd see the day my grandchildren could play their games, our Dene games, in the school with classes going on and teachers watching...this is good, things are changing."
If you are interested in learning more about the Regional Youth Handgames and Traditional Games Tournament please feel free to contact Judy Whitford at firstname.lastname@example.org