Invisible But Not Absent: Aboriginal Women in Sport and Recreation

The few articles which discuss Aboriginal women's involvement in sport suggest, however, that there is a rich history of involvement on the part of these women, in roles as disparate as athlete, coach, supporter, and organizer (Paraschak, in press). Aboriginal women had a history of involvement...

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Published in:Canadian woman studies 1995-10, Vol.15 (4), p.71
Main Author: Paraschak, Victoria
Format: Article
Language:eng
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Summary:The few articles which discuss Aboriginal women's involvement in sport suggest, however, that there is a rich history of involvement on the part of these women, in roles as disparate as athlete, coach, supporter, and organizer (Paraschak, in press). Aboriginal women had a history of involvement in some traditional games (Craig; Cheska), as well as in traditional games festivals, such as the Good Woman Contest in the Northern Games ([Victoria Paraschak] 1991). They have also been active in Eurocanadian sports such as basketball, softball, track and field, rodeo, cross-country skiing, badminton, baton twirling, billiards, bowling, broomball, figure skating, golf, hockey, speedskating, tennis, and volleyball (Cheska; [Zeman, Brenda]; Paraschak 1990). These athletes have participated in mainstream sport, and in competitions organized by and for Native peoples themselves (Paraschak 1990). Some of these athletes have been highly successful at the international level, in sports as disparate as basketball, table tennis (Craig), crosscountry skiing (Zeman), softball (Paraschak, in press), lacrosse, and track. For example, in 1995 Angela Chalmers, an Aboriginal middle distance runner from Victoria, British Columbia, was awarded one of 16 National Aboriginal Achievement Awards-the only award given to a sportsperson (CBC). She had won several medals in international competitions, and most recently had been the flag-bearer leading in the Canadian contingent at the opening ceremonies of the 1994 Commonwealth Games-the Games where she won a gold medal in her event. Some of the literature addressing Aboriginal women's sporting participation conflicts with what we know about women in sport generally. Craig suggests that sports involvement is not at odds with an Aboriginal girls' gender identity. She notes, for example, that family and friends were very supportive of and interested in female athletes, that female athletes at the Albuquerque Indian School were looked up to as leaders, and that "femininity" did not seem to be an issue for these female athletes. Paraschak (1990) identifies wide-ranging involvement in sport by girls and women on the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario, challenging the notion that women athletes limit themselves to stereorypically "feminine" activities. As well, Northern Games organizers in the Northwest Territories have demonstrated an interesting approach towards gender equity. Not only have they opened up traditionally "male" activities to female
ISSN:0713-3235