Please note: This story contains reference to someone who has died.
Last week the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame announced the release of the Indigenous Sport Heroes Education Experience that will highlight 14 of Canada’s most influential Indigenous athletes.
The live digital multimedia exhibit is set out in chapters, with each outlining the stories and accomplishments of the Indigenous hall of famers.
The attraction can also be viewed online in the form of a digital book — shining the spotlight on the athletes’ stories and accomplishments, as well as work they have done for their communities.
Today is #NIPD2021 and we are so honoured to have inducted 14 Indigenous athletes & builders into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. Their journeys are those of great sacrifice, hard work, and resilience, connected through a passion to build Canada through sport. pic.twitter.com/R5EYGNtz0b
— Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame (@sportshall) June 21, 2021
Cheryl Bernard, President and CEO of the Canada Sports Hall of Fame, said the digital book is “one of the most important initiatives for the Canada Sports Hall of Fame”.
Four of the athletes featured are Tom Longboat, Sharon and Shirley Firth and Chief Wilton (Willie) Littlechild.
Longboat was a distance runner from the Six Nations Grand River reserve in Ontario and in 1951 the Tom Longboat Awards were established to recognise Aboriginal athletes that “demonstrate outstanding contributions to sport in Canada”.
Forced to attend the Mohawk Institute Residential School when he was 12, he escaped in his second year and was brought back, he ran away a second time, hiding in his uncle’s farmhouse. Despite experiencing stereotypes and racial slurs throughout his running/sporting career (c) pic.twitter.com/qPkqSymQA3
— Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame (@sportshall) July 7, 2021
Sharon and Shirley Firth are twins who share the honour of being the first Indigenous women inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015.
#TBT : Twins, Sharon & Shirley Firth, were pioneers in cross-country skiing for the Northwest Territories and represented 🇨🇦 at 4 Olympic Winter Games. They became the first indigenous women inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, in 2015. #MakeAnImpact
— Sport Canada (@SportCanada_EN) October 3, 2019
Littlechild, a member of Ermineskin Cree Nation in Alberta, is a former MP and one of the founders of the North American Indigenous Games.
Osâw kihîw | Mahihkan Pimohtêw | Chief Wilton Littlechild was born and raised by his grandparents on the Ermineskin Cree Nation Reserve at Maskwacîs, Alberta. Despite enduring years in the Residential School system, Wilton Littlechild found solace and strength in playing sport. pic.twitter.com/vBcnp3b1tm
— Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame (@sportshall) July 27, 2021
He was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2018 and holds the distinction of being one of the few people to have won multiple Tom Longboat awards, first in 1967 and again in 1974.
Littlechild said he believes the exhibit will be extremely beneficial.
“Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame has a very important role to play in advancing peace and Reconciliation and one of the ways is to tell the national story about Indigenous athletes in history,” he said.
“Reconciliation is about having good relations and the more we know about each other and the more we work together, building on the strengths of each other, the more united and stronger Canada, our home and native land, will be.”
The book is set to be launched as a part of a 10-year initiative to highlight Indigenous athletes throughout Canadian history.
By Teisha Cloos