Nuu-chah-nulth teams prepare for Junior All Native Tournament | Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper

Nuu-chah-nulth teams prepare for Junior All Native Tournament

Vancouver Island, BC

Nuu-chah-hulth youth are getting ready to shine at the Junior All-Native Basketball Tournament (JANT) March 17 to 22 in Terrace, B.C.

Hosted by Nisga'a Nation, the youth basketball tournament will showcase 88 teams and 1,400 Indigenous athletes from all over the province. Mike Davis, JANT committee manager and member of Nisga’a, says the tournament is spread out over six facilities.

“Terrace doesn’t even have one basketball facility, but Nisga’a Nation is making it happen with the facilities we have available. We’re converting two of the ice arenas into two basketball gyms,” said Davis, noting that the school gyms were all booked up by various clubs.

“We’re hoping when Terrace sees the event they will see the importance of building a nice rec centre,” he added.

Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ is sending three teams: Marissa Mack and Edward Mack are bringing a U13 boys and a U13 girls team and Matthew Jack and Evelyn Charlie are coaching a U17 boys team. Catherine Thomas is coaching the U17 girls Nuu-chah-nulth West Coast Thunderbirds, a mix of Tla-o-qui-aht, Ahousaht, and Hesquiaht players, and Joe Charleson is coaching the U17 girls Tseshaht Pride.

“Defense will win it for us. Offense will come, but defense is what’s going to win this tournament,” said Charleson, who started coaching women’s basketball 20 years ago with his sisters’ team.

The Tseshaht Pride came third in the JANT in Nanaimo last year and the year before in Kelowna they finished second.

“The ultimate goal would be to win it all. I haven’t done that yet in all my years coaching,” said Charleson. “This team is something new for me also because we don’t have all our players in Port Alberni, they are in surrounding towns. But I’ve had eyes on everybody and I know what they can do and hopefully we can get it together and have a good run.”

Prolific Indigenous basketball player and basketball mom Anita Charleson-Touchie has three daughters competing in the JANT:  Tiani and Taleah are on the on the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ U13 squad and Jaysen is playing for the U17 Tseshaht Pride. 

“Reflecting on the value and importance of sport like basketball, for my family it’s been a generational thing,” said Charleson-Touchie. “For me, it started with my father, who was a phenomenal player. He hosted All Native tournaments on the coast.”

She went on to say that all-native sporting events like JANT provide Indigenous youth with opportunities to connect to their Aboriginal culture and values, make lifelong friends and play in a safe space.

“In my own experience, I didn’t always feel safe because of the racism,” said Charleson-Touchie. “It’s important to acknowledge the cultural differences. I see it myself with my children, when they’re with our family or community, they do feel safe enough to be themselves.”

Coach Charleson re-iterates.

“It gives the youth something to do and something to strive for. It’s part of our culture. We battle on the floor, but everybody is happy to see everybody,” he said.

The host of JANT has the option to include a U13 division on the schedule. For Nisga’a, it was important to keep the younger division.

“Having young players see that there is more to their small villages and be able to go out and make connections… We just want to keep kids busy,” said Davis. “It teaches a lot of life skills. Not only playing basketball, but there’s discipline and anger management. Some teams make you sign an oath that you’re not going to do drugs or alcohol.”

Charleson is constantly wowed by the U13 teams.

“These kids are just unreal and amazing athletes. You would think it was like senior division watching these U13 teams play,” he said.

Canada’s First Nations Radio (CFNR) is the broadcaster for the JANT games and all matches will be live-streamed online via the CFNR website:

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