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The Journey to NAIG 2023


You could say the 2023 North American Indigenous Games were more than 25 years in the making. And George (Tex) Marshall knows all about it.

Marshall, 57, led the charge to bring NAIG to Nova Scotia and can recall a national meeting on Aboriginal sport in Calgary in the mid-1990s when NAIG became a popular topic.

“At that time, I made a statement to the group that we want to host NAIG in Halifax someday,” says Marshall, a Mi’kmaw from Eskasoni First Nation. “It has been that long.”

The waiting officially ends when the Games kick off July 15 with Kjipuktuk (Halifax), Dartmouth and Millbrook First Nation hosting close to 5,300 Indigenous athletes ages 13 to 19 from across Turtle Island (North America). The one-week event requires about 3,000 volunteers and represents the largest multi-sport and cultural gathering in the history of Atlantic Canada.

It’s a massive undertaking featuring 16 sports and a variety of activities, ceremonies, and displays to share Mi’kmaw culture.

Marshall now serves as the president of NAIG 2023 and is intimately familiar with the hard work and teamwork that was required to get to this point. That included mobilizing the right people for the right tasks and tackling the challenge of putting together a winning bid.

Then there was the pandemic that forced the Games to be postponed from 2020 to 2023.

Marshall describes it as a long, tough journey but confidently says it will be worth it come July.

“It’s the epitome of success for our people,” he says. “I don’t feel that it’s myself individually. It’s a collective effort, all the people I’ve partnered with over the years to build a system we have and to build toward hosting a quality event here.

“I didn’t want to just host NAIG in Halifax. Of course, the goal is to have the best Games ever. I know everyone says that, but I truly believe they will be the best Games ever.”

Marshall, the manager of Mi’kmaw sport at Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey, has dedicated most of his life to creating opportunities in sport for Indigenous youth.

That fuelled his interest in NAIG. There have been nine previous Games and Marshall has attended most of them, including three times as chef de mission for Team Mi’kmaw Nova Scotia in 2008, 2014, and 2017. He also sat on the NAIG council board of directors for 20 years. Marshall says hosting NAIG has legacy opportunities in multiple areas because the event is equally about sport and culture.

The cultural aspects will be prominent throughout the Games and will include a smudging ceremony prior to each competition at all 21 venues. A culture village located on the Halifax Commons will also welcome people to immerse themselves in Mi’kmaw culture through language, traditions, and arts and crafts.

“The greatest legacy will be the local community becoming more informed and educated in Indigenous ways of knowing and being,” Marshall says. “For the athletes, looking forward, the partnerships we have with the PSOs (provincial sport organizations), I think the legacy from that will be continued partnerships, and our ultimate goal is to have a performance program in the NAIG sports for each sport in partnership and collaboration with the PSOs.

“I think that’s one of the greatest legacies that we need, similar to the Canada Games program.”

Marshall notes the Games are open to everyone. There is no charge to watch the competition.

“It’s not just for Indigenous people to watch. It’s for everyone to watch,” Marshall says. “I think the people who come out to take in the competition, the events, and the culture will be very impressed.

“It’s an incredible opportunity that people should not miss.”

“It’s an incredible opportunity that people should not miss.”

— George (Tex) Marshall





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