Young Native American athletes who want to test their skills against the continent’s best might have that chance in July in the North American Indigenous Games.
An informational meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Southern Ute multi-purpose building, 256 Ute Road, Ignacio.
The NAIG is a 10-day sporting event held every three years in which 5,000 tribal members throughout North America compete in various categories in Olympic-quality facilities. It will be July 16 through 23 in Toronto.
Team Colorado, composed of tribal members from the Southern Ute, Ute Mountain Ute and Navajo tribes, will participate in basketball, volleyball, swimming, track and field, archery and possibly badminton, SunUte recreation manager Kevin Winkler said.
“We’ve participated since the second NAIG games in 1992,” said Winkler, who oversees recruiting local participants. “In the last NAIG games in 2014 in Saskatchewan, we took 86 athletes from both Ute tribes as well as some Navajo.”
In past years, Colorado contestants have medaled in swimming, archery and basketball.
The competition is open to anyone age 13 to 19 with proof of tribal heritage. Eligible participants must be enrolled in school.
If there are enough interested participants, tryouts will be held in March.
“It’s a huge chance to prepare yourself for bigger competition later, because many participants are looking to represent the U.S. or Canada in the Olympics one day,” Winkler said. “And there is a lot of cultural exchange through the event. There are people from all over looking to share their traditions and language.”