Elders’ teachings are about life skills and many of them translate well to sports: how to take care of yourself, how to eat right and how to survive.
The concept behind the TV series Warrior Games is to bring sport back to where it all began: when elders passed down these wonderful games, both traditional and contemporary, to the youth.
Warrior Games will be broadcast on Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) in the fall. Steve Sxwithul’txw, from the Penelakut First Nation, is the host and producer of the series. I talked to Steve about the show and his experience filming an episode in Whitehorse.
Sheldon McRae: What’s the importance of featuring Aboriginal youth in Warrior Games?
Steve Sxwithul’txw: When I was in Whitehorse, I said to the youth “without you I wouldn’t have a show.” I thought it was important for youth to remember who they are and where they came from.
SM: Compared to other regions where you’ve filmed in Canada, what are the unique strengths of the Aboriginal athletes from Whitehorse?
SS: I noticed how some of the young people are very fit. I don’t know if it’s due to their lifestyles, healthy eating, living off the land more, or they’re more outdoorsy or athletic.
I also found the youth were totally engaged. They were really eager to share their sports and give us demonstrations. Why we do it, why it’s important and where the information came from. They wanted to showcase their way of life, which they hold dear to their hearts.
SM: What’s the importance of focusing on the Arctic and Dene Games for one episode?
SS: We visited Canada’s Northern House at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games and filmed a demo reel for the show. We highlighted the importance of the kicking games to the Arctic — the way the Inuit kept warm through the winter nights and stayed in shape.
We watched what we filmed. We realized the importance of, and lack of knowledge about, the Arctic and Dene Games. I thought it was important to showcase this across Canada.
SM: What is an Aboriginal sport being played in the Yukon, and what is its importance to the Aboriginal culture of the area?
SS: Snow Snake is a (game played by throwing a long slender piece of wood) like a spear; it’s finely honed, rounded and lacquered. It can be used on snow or ice, and travel for up to a kilometre. It’s a recreational activity now, but back in the day it was used to keep food on the table.
It’s a sport that’s played as far as Ontario. We met an elder in Ontario who makes Snow Snakes when we filmed an episode their last summer.
SM: While filming in Whitehorse, what’s the most memorable piece of knowledge an elder shared with you?
SS: The key message has been “thank you for taking the time to let us know, and remind the kids how important and fun this is. This is our way of life.” People are forgetting about it with the technologies of today. It’s important to remember the past that leads us into the future.
A schedule of APTN’s presentations can be found on APTN.ca.