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Calgary selected to host the 2027 North American Indigenous Games

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said being able to host the North American Indigenous Games is an amazing opportunity to showcase the city and to continue the reconciliation journey.

On Friday, during the closing ceremonies of the 2023 event in Halifax, Calgary was awarded the 2027 North American Indigenous Games, a multi-sport and culture event that will host more than 5,000 athletes from 756 Nations competing in 16 sporting events.

In 1990, the first North American Indigenous Games was held in Alberta. Back in 1971, however, the first Native Summer Games were held in Enoch, Alta.

Mayor Gondek said it was a privilege to be chosen as the host city.

“I couldn’t be happier. I think this is just an amazing opportunity for the city to host 5,000 Indigenous athletes from across North America as well as their families and coaches,” she told LiveWire Calgary.

Representatives from the City of Calgary and the Tsuut’ina Nation, who will partner on the event, made their case to host back in May this year. Their formal bid was sent in March and delegates from the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) Council did a site visit in April.

Calgary beat out Kamloops, BC to host the 2027 event.

“We are absolutely thrilled to be a partner with Calgary and for Calgary to have been selected to host the North American Indigenous Games in 2027,” said Tsuut’ina Nation Chief Roy Whitney.

“We look forward to hosting Indigenous athletes and families on our beautiful lands at the foothills of the Rockies. We are confident that visitors will have an unforgettable experience, with elite competition and cultural activities throughout the Games.”

Substantial local impact

Tourism Calgary CEO Cindy Ady said they were honoured that Calgary was chosen by the North American Indigenous Games Council.   Tourism Calgary had been working on the bid for more than a year prior to delegates making the presentation in May.

Early estimates would be that the Games will cost $15 million to $20 million to host but generate as much as $40 million in economic activity for the area.

“The Games will inspire thousands of Indigenous youth through sport, and will be a tremendous opportunity to celebrate and strengthen our understanding of Indigenous culture and heritage, all while bringing significant economic activity to our area.”

The Games events will be hosted at a variety of sporting facilities in Calgary and on the Tsuut’ina Nation, with the city’s post-secondary schools playing a large role.

The bid garnered the support of the Indigenous Sport Council of Alberta. They selected Calgary as their nominee in late 2022.

“We have every confidence that Calgary, its surrounding Nations, communities and organizations will host a tremendous Games,” said Shannon Dunfield, Chair of ISCA and President of the NAIG Council, in a prepared release.

“After 37 years, we are excited to bring the Games back to Alberta to share our vibrant Indigenous cultures and the beauty of our province with all of Turtle Island.”

There will be federal and provincial support to host the Games as well.

“We’re delighted that the Calgary bid is successful. Alberta has a history of presenting world-class sporting events, and we look forward to sharing the best of what the province has to offer with athletes and teams from across North America in 2027,” said Alberta Minister of Tourism and Sport, MLA Joseph Schow.

Calgary’s path to reconciliation

Mayor Gondek said no organization or city in Canada is as far along in its reconciliation journey as it could or should be.  

“I would say that this is a very good step in terms of being the host city, in terms of committing our sports facilities towards Indigenous athletes,” she said.

She said there’s a natural tie-in to the re-engagement of youth in Indigenous communities.

“As a result of these Games being started years ago, we have seen greater success rates in terms of Indigenous athletes participating in sport and being able to carry on to post-secondary and really get past some of the obstacles they were facing,” she said.

The Games, which take place every four years, are a week-long event that will see more than 5,000 athletes in three age groups: 14U, 16U and 19U.  

It will require more than 3,000 volunteers.