Aboriginal Sports Circle honours volunteers, role models

Aboriginal Sports Circle honours volunteers, role models
Aboriginal Sport Circle’s 2014 award winners. From left, Ashley Gillis, Joanne Tetlichi, Spencer and Christina Bonnetrouge, Cpl. Craig Matatall and Tim Gordon.Photo: Aboriginal Sports Circle.

With last summer’s North American Indigenous Games and constant excursions to communities across the territory year-round, it’s been a busy 2014 for the team at Aboriginal Sports Circle NWT (ASCNWT).

For one evening, the members of the organization traded in their trainers for their best duds and took a break from their recreational activities for the organization’s annual celebratory dinner and awards ceremony at the Explorer Hotel on Nov. 21.

Six outstanding individuals were selected as winners this year for their commitment to volunteering within their communities and their positions as role models for future generations.

Ashley Gillis of Fort Smith was named community builder of the year for her tireless efforts to provide recreational activities to the town. An athlete throughout her school days, Gillis graduated from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor’s degree in recreation, sport and tourism.

She said she was surprised and honoured to win the award, but truly enjoyed the work.

“The youth need something to do; if there’s nothing for them to do then they’re just going to go and get in trouble,” Gillis said in an interview with The Journal. “I grew up in Smith so I know how hard it is when there’s no outlet. I just wanted to help provide a safe environment. It wasn’t that I said, ‘I’m going to plan this community event because…’; it was just something that happened more naturally and just happened to turn into a community event.”

Throughout the years, Gillis has dedicated extensive hours to her community. She spent her summers working at the town’s rec centre and organized numerous tournaments for her favourite sport of volleyball, to basketball and everything in between. One year she even coordinated the town’s Canada Day festivities, a task that she said challenged her and gave her wonderful experience in the field.

During university, Gillis took her talents internationally, traveling to Thailand for three months to do her practicum with the U of A’s Play Around the World program, where she worked with kids with limited access to organized play and recreation.

In October, Gillis accepted a job with Municipal and Community Affairs as youth program coordinator for the Dehcho region. Now living in Fort Simpson, she looks forward to bringing fun activities to kids around the area, starting with a Jump A Bunch tour in December.

Recreation as culture preservation

Every year, the ASCNWT also recognizes individuals and organizations that use recreation as a means of sharing local indigenous cultures. This year, Fort McPherson’s Joanne Tetlichi was given the culture award.

“It was so exciting,” she said. “I said I’d do it on my own, I’d do it for myself and not to be recognized, but I was glad.”

Tetlichi often takes teens between the ages of 12 and 16 out into the land, where she teaches them how to set snares, collect traditional medicines and work with wood.

“I don’t even invite them; they invite themselves,” she said, but noted she is always happy to have them along.

Tetlichi has also shared her talents internationally.

“I beaded a baby’s belt for Pope John Paul when he was visiting,” she said. “I made a belt for Prince Charles; my dad Johnny Charlie gave that to him maybe when I was 14. When I was 51, I gave Prince William and Kate a pair of slippers and I had a picture of my dad giving his dad the strap I made and then meeting them.”

Also joining the ranks of the 2014 ASCNWT winners were Fort Providence’s badminton aces Christina and Spencer Bonnetrouge for the sport award and Inuvik’s Tim Gordon for best coach. The organization also awarded RCMP officer Cpl. Craig Matatall of Yellowknife for his off-duty volunteer work.

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