The North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) encourage healthy living, athletic excellence, team spirit and cultural pride, but these are not the only positive outcomes of participating in the NAIG. A study on the social impact of the NAIG on Aboriginal participants shows that providing these unique opportunities where youth can meet their peers from across Turtle Island also has a positive influence on the participants’ academic journeys.
Whether it is the opportunity to socialize and excel among Indigenous peers from all four directions, take on challenges or share new experiences, the NAIG have definitely demonstrated their ability to inspire Indigenous youth from across Canada and the United States to pursue their education. (Praxis Research/ Strategy, 2014)
Although sports and educational institutions have a long history of blending athletic and academic programs and opportunities, some NAIG volunteers who also participated in this study suggested that holding the 2014 NAIG on a university campus in Regina might have also given the participants an opportunity to indirectly experience a university lifestyle.
In addition to promoting cultural identity and athletic performance, the Games contribute to a sense of accomplishment and build participants’ self-esteem. While we know that educational choices are not based on a single factor, and that educational pursuits are not limited to sports involvement, there are some interesting findings on how the NAIG influence educational goals.
The social impact study showed that while the majority of the participants at the 2014 Regina NAIG were in high school, an impressive 70% indicated that they plan to pursue at least a university degree; as many as 25% of these students also indicated their wish to continue on to graduate studies. (Praxis Research/ Strategy, 2014)
The positive influence on healthy lifestyle choices, sports performance and cultural identity goes beyond participation in the Games. They have a positive impact on the academic choices made by Indigenous youth—all the more reason for athletes, families, and supporters to get involved!