Siksika N7 Take gold at Alberta Indigenous Games 2017
It is hard to imagine, but sneakers are making a difference on the Siksika First Nation, just east of Calgary. Such a difference, that it has been recognized with an award from the Alberta Recreation and Parks Association.
In 2007, Nike launched its N7 collection. The runners were designed for First Nation’s athletes and their bigger, wider feet. Their design incorporated Native American symbols and their sales supported Nike’s N7 fund (http://n7fund.com). In 2014, the fund financed a youth group called “Siksika N7”. In 2017, the Siksika First Nation won the Choosewell Healthy Community Award for the Most Significant Change.
According to Janice Doore, the Crisis and Victim Services Co-coordinator, the 10 members of the group, eight boys and two girls, “are looked up to as youth role models. They promote active and healthy lifestyles to other youth by developing sports activities, educational activities, and volunteering inside and outside the community.” Janice recalls that N7 began as she was taking up her position and together they confronted a suicide at the local school.
“When we started the N7 group, we had a pack of youth who were going to commit suicide.” she says. One did, and he had about ten of his friends who had a pact to follow him. The N7 members and the crisis team were able to break that pact. Every year we have a memorial for this boy who was a really good athlete.”
The N7 members organize floor hockey tournaments, basketball camps, video game tournaments and career fairs all geared to reach out to youth between 10 and 18 years old. They follow a personal practice that includes sweats, cultural camps, and ceremonies, to which other young people in the community are invited. They also reach out to the elders in the community. “A lot of the elders that we pick are elders that have gone through their journey and their healing” says Janice. “It gives them a purpose. When we have elders doing traditional teaching, they are calling first thing in the morning making sure everything is ready to go.”
All N7 members follow a code of conduct that means being alcohol, smoke and drug free while providing mentorship to other youth. Janice has had to let some N7 members go who could not follow that code. Others she has helped through rough spots. “They’re the ones running the program but I am there watching and when they fall I pick them up.” She cites the story of a member who quit school. To be N7, you have to be in school. She persuaded him to re-register and he will graduate this year.
Janice Doore is very proud of all the kids who have been through the N7 experience. “All of them are graduating. Some are in university. There are some that are in college right now. Some are playing college basketball or university basketball. I encourage them to continue growing but also start mentoring the next group of kids. Youth building youth.”
Her message is straight-forward. “You have an identity. You are members of this First Nation. Be proud to be Siksika.