More than 4000 athletes representing close to 30 countries are participating in the 2nd Annual World Indigenous Nations (WIN) Games in Canada.
Te Waha o Rerekohu, Kawakawa mai Tawhiti, Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Waiu o Ngāti Porou, St Joseph’s Māori Girls College and Tologa Bay Area School are just some of the New Zealand schools attending the WIN Games.
Mahana film actor and Tolaga Bay Area School student, Akuhata Keefe is a part of the New Zealand delegation at the WIN games.
“We left NZ on Friday and landed here on Saturday. Ever since we landed we’ve been full on. The first night we landed we only got about four hours sleep. Then we went straight to register for the games.”
The WIN Games 2017 Opening Ceremony was held at Bear Park in Maskwacis, Alberta, Canada on Monday at 7pm.
Keefe says, “We had to dress up in our kākahu and do our wero, some haka. There are a lot of people over here who love Māori. After their pōhiri a lot of people were asking us for photos because of our moko, our pūhoro and they were just so fascinated at the way we were dressed, our taonga and our taiaha. It took us a good hour to get back to our bus to get home because so many people were asking for photos.”
Keefe says New Zealand has already had some success in archery and swimming.
“We just had archery yesterday. We have swimming and canoeing today. Yesterday in the archery we received 1 gold medal and a silver medal. Today for the swimming we received 1 gold and 1 silver, both by our women. New Zealand have been doing pretty well. Tomorrow is basketball and soccer.”
Indigenous people of all ages take part in the games. Keefe was impressed by the efforts of one particular elderly man who proved age is no barrier.
“Our youngest girl is 13, and the oldest person I’ve seen compete is 75. He is one of the chiefs of the iwi over here. He competed in the 400m swim.”
Keefe says one of his highlights was being able to help others in need.
“Today in the swimming a Panama woman was having difficulty swimming in the race. Also in the mens race, one of the men from Panama started to have difficulty swimming too so we had to send off one of our teachers to rescue him.
“Lucky we were there for the swimmers because if we hadn’t been there then I don’t know what would’ve happened. There was a boat in the water but it was up ahead with the swimmers in the front, leaving the swimmers at the back behind. So we took action.”
Keefe also enjoyed experiencing the local indigenous people, from their vibrant traditional attire to their cultural performances.
“Beautiful. Their iwi, their culture, the people and the way they dress. They dress in bright colours. Some of them dress in kākahu with bells. Some have wolves on their heads, or hold sticks with an eagle claw. Their kanikani is really different from ours, and their waiata. I’ve never seen it before. But I think that’s how they react to Māori haka and pūkana.”
When asked what he was looking forward to, Keefe says, “Basketball and tug-of-war, like at the Pā wars. But over here they call it the tug-of-strength.
“I think these games are all about bringing indigenous people together and celebrating us, our identity, where we’re from and celebrating those who have come before us. It’s been fun!”
For updates on the WIN Games 2017 in Canada, go to their facebook page here.