Nuu-chah-nulth players pumped for All Native Basketball Tournament | Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper

Nuu-chah-nulth players pumped for All Native Basketball Tournament

Vancouver Island, BC

It’s the final countdown to the 64th annual All Native Basketball Tournament in Prince Rupert, B.C. on Feb. 11 to Feb. 18, and three Nuu-chah-nulth teams are fired up to take to the court this year.

Ahousaht is sending the Kakawin Cheelth, an intermediate boys team coached by Devin Robinson, and the Maaqtusiis Ravens senior women’s squad managed by Courtenay Louie. The mighty Hesquiaht Descendants women’s team, captained by Mariah Charleson, will also vie to best their sixth-place finish from 2023.

Coach Robinson, a high-post player with 30 years of ANBT experience to draw from, is pushing for his team of 11 Ahousaht players to make the final. Since the boys are pretty spread out all over the Island — Ahousaht, Ucluelet, Ty-histanis, and Port Alberni — Robinson says they rented an athletic hall in Port once a week to practice and bond as a team.

“We don’t have the height, but I know we are fast and we can go quite a ways into the tournament if they play to their capabilities,” said Robinson over a call from his home in Nanaimo.

He went on to note that one of the most important things with young, fast teams like the Kakawin Cheelth is communication.

“It’s not only about physical conditioning, it’s about smarts on the court; running your plays and defense. You have to learn how to defend a bigger player, so I’m trying to get them accustomed to different zones on three-point shooters and the big men that play inside,” he said.

The 2024 ANBT will showcase 110 games, 60 teams, and about 700 Indigenous athletes from all over British Columbia and southeast Alaska, according to tournament organizer and longtime volunteer Peter Haugan. 

“We’ve got two teams from Hydaburg and one team for Metlakatla in Alaska. The Gitxsan Thunders will be opening the tournament this year,” said Haugan, who started as a scorekeeper when he was 13 and turns 72 this summer.   

Louie told the Ha-Shilth-Sa she’s looking forward to just being with the team and having fun on the court. She said the fundraising began back in September, so this time around, they don’t have to pay for much out-of-pocket.

“We have enough for rooms, to cover a portion of the ferry, for fuel expenses, and most of our food. It’s been a lot of selling Sunday dinners and Sunday breakfasts and draws and cleaning up after Christmas dinners,” she said. 

Although some of the Ravens played in Ahousaht’s December tournament, Louie says they have yet to play together as a team.

“The team isn’t a core group of ladies anymore. There used to be,” Louie said. “We started the year off with around 30 ladies interested and now we’re down to about eight. Some people are going through grief and some people just financially can’t commit because they have seasonal jobs. I think mental health also plays a big role in it for some players. It’s a huge endeavour to go to All Native. But eight (players) are just enough.”

Charleson says her team of 11 Hesquiaht Descendants is their strongest group yet; they’ve had the opportunity to scrimmage against collegiate-level teams and played together at the Ahousaht Christmas tournament. She thanked all the supporters and expressed her excitement to journey to the ANBT as it provides a very special forum to re-connect with family.

“The big challenge is that so many of our Hesquiaht people live in different places, so it’s always been a challenge of just keeping a team together,” said Charleson.

“We’re all blood family, every single one of us,” she said. “Every village has that sense of pride, of course. Going to the All Native, you either represent a village or a club, and we represent our nation of Hesquiaht. It’s just that pride in representing who we are, where we come from and just knowing that our family back home is cheering for us. It’s the way to bring together our Hesquiaht people for a positive purpose.”

The ANBT isn’t just about basketball — the sporting event brings together Indigenous culture from all over the province, and it’s also one of the only tournaments that pays players per diems.

“The tournament pays out $20 per player, per day that they are in the tournament. Last year that total was $54,000. We’ve had a per diem in this tournament right from day one. It’s part of its history,” Haugan notes.

Fans can listen to live ANBT action at

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