After months of preparation and hours of hard work, several local athletes are set to travel to Canada to compete in the North American Indigenous Games.
Scheduled to take place in Regina, Saskatchewan, July 20-27, the Games will feature teams from the United States and Canada. Approximately 4,500 Native American athletes will compete in the event.
Local athletes competing in the games include members of the Southern Ute Tribe and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, who will combine to form “Team Colorado.”
In addition to fielding two boys basketball teams and one girls basketball team, “Team Colorado” will also enter one girls volleyball team, four golfers, four archers, two badminton players and one swimmer.
Swimming for “Team Colorado” will be Montezuma-Cortez High School girls team captain Tifiny Mills, who plans to compete in six events.
Other local athletes competing in the Games include Ute Mountain Ute basketball players Joe Whyte and Danita Miles, who are both looking forward to next week’s experience.
“I look forward to seeing how it is in (Canada),” said Miles. “I’m excited to see how the courts are and how the air is.”
“I’m excited to see different races of Indians,” Whyte added. “I want to have fun and be competitive.”
Leading “Team Colorado” will be Robert Roybal, who works as the Recreation Director for the Ute Mountain Tribe.
Saying that he believes that all the athletes involved will benefit from the experience, Roybal explained why the games are more than just an athletic showcase.
“Apart from the competition part of it, it’s a cultural event where you’re able to go and see exhibitions and entertainment from all over Canada,” said Roybal.
While a few of “Team Colorado’s” athletes have travelled outside of the country, many have never left the Four Corners area.
“For some of these kids, to be able to fly, go out of the country and go out of the state is a first time thing,” said Roybal.
As for his goals for “Team Colorado,” Roybal stated that he hopes that every coach and athlete involved will learn.
“The biggest goal that I would have for them is to go and pick up as much as they can,” said Roybal. “It’s important to let people know who you are as Utes while learning about other places and other people.”
Opening ceremonies for this year’s North American Indigenous Games will be held on July 20 and athletic competition will begin soon after.