Cultural Sharing: This spirit of “Canada’s Games” is celebrated at Aboriginal Youth Cultural Sharing Day in Whistler

On October 22, 2006, visitors to the Vancouver 2010 Information Centre in Whistler got a chance to experience the spirit of Canada’s Games. Aboriginal communities from two of Canada’s three coasts came together to share and celebrate their cultures, and their commitment to making the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games truly a Canada-wide experience. This day became known as Aboriginal Youth Cultural Sharing Day, and was a product of good timing, youthful enthusiasm and commitment to a goal.

When the Official Emblem of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games was unveiled, the Grade 6 students of Jimmy Hikok Ilihakvik Elementary School in Kugluktuk, Nunavut, began fundraising for a school trip to Vancouver. With a population of only 1,400, fundraising for such an ambitious project was not an easy task. But the children were inspired to share their experience of the inukshuk – the Inuit symbol of hope and friendship adopted as the emblem for the 2010 Games.

When teacher Catherine Minshull contacted VANOC offering to share the Inuit inukshuk tradition during their visit to the Lower Mainland, Vancouver 2010 jumped at the opportunity. The 19 Grade 6 students from Kugluktuk, Nunavut, demonstrated their tradition of inukshuk-building on the deck of the Vancouver 2010 Information Centre in Whistler. They left a 1.5-metre tall sculpture as a gift for VANOC and Whistler to share with visitors.

Youth Ambassadors from the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations were also on-hand sharing their own unique cultures with the Nunavut guests and welcoming them with drumming and songs. Youth from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation in North Vancouver and the Iswahl Dance Group from Mount Currie, BC, also participated, sharing songs, drumming and dancing.

More than 400 people enjoyed the event, including many families from the Sea-to-Sky Corridor. Lois Joseph, leader of the Iswahl Dance Group and teacher at the Xit’olacw Community School in Mount Currie, expressed her enthusiasm for the day. “This is something that’s really awesome. It’s one of the first times that First Nations are directly involved with the Olympic Games. It’s great to share each of our communities’ songs and dances and yet feel that we are all the same in heart,” said Joseph.

It was a stellar example of how the Olympic and Paralympic Movements can inspire young people to engage , while demonstrating the cultural impact of hosting Canada’s Games in 2010.

Suzie Akana Powers, a 12-year-old student from Kugluktuk, said, “I feel great. I didn’t realize this was the most important part of the trip. We got to see a lot of people and build an inukshuk as part of friendship.”

“When the Inuit kids built the Inukshuk on our deck on Youth Cultural Sharing Day, it was clear that the Olympic Games are about so much more than medals.” – Donna Savage, Whistler 2010 Volunteer Team Lead, Vancouver 2010 Information Centre, Whistler

In 2007, a small team from VANOC visited the town of Kugluktuk and found that the spirit of Canada’s Games is still alive and well in the high north. Learn more about our 2007 Northern Tour.