June 21st is National Indigenous Peoples Day and on the Standing Buffalo Dakota First Nation they will be celebrating with extra purpose this year.
The day will feature lacrosse games or Medicine Games to unite communities and to pay tribute to residential school victims and survivors.
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“A Medicine Game to honour the 215 children that have recently come to light. I think it’s something that we must do as a community. And I think it’s going to be a really great opportunity for two communities to come together,” says Jeff Shattler.
The games are being facilitated by Shattler, a star in the National Lacrosse League who has an Inuit and Ojibwe heritage. Shattler is a transition player for the Saskatchewan Rush who will also be playing in the exhibition games between Weyburn and Standing Buffalo using his first ever traditional wooden lacrosse stick.
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The festivities will also include talents shows, dinner, honour songs by a drum group and a moment of silence as well as a viewing of Spirit Game: Pride of a Nation, a documentary about the Iroquois Nationals lacrosse team.
“We are going to be doing a gift exchange, having a prayer and we are going to play for the right reasons. We are going to play for our elders, the community, and the children from the past and for the future”.
When talking about the residential schools Shattler pauses before saying “I really don’t have words that could describe the feeling. I have two boys and I have a daughter roughly around some of the ages that they found. So just that on its own really hits close to home for me”.
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Shattler grew up in Ontario but has made Saskatchewan his home since signing with the Rush. He is trying to bring lacrosse to as many communities across the prairie province as he can knowing what the sport has done for his life.
“Sport gives you a lot of opportunity and it’s given me a lot of opportunities so that’s what I’m trying to express to these kids. That sport can give you a lot of opportunities,” Shattler said. “It teaches you life skills, it teaches you on the floor and off the floor. Lacrosse has really done a huge thing for the community of Standing Buffalo and I just want to keep going with that tradition.”
“People might play for all different kinds of reasons and whatever reason it may be if we play with a clear mind and a clear heart I believe our message will be heard from the Creator. We are going to have a great game and we’re going to have a great day.”
The scrimmages are expected to start around 6:00 Monday evening at Bert Fox Community High School in Fort Qu’Appelle.
“I think that we need to stand up for ourselves and stand together and we are starting that on Indigenous Day.”
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