The 61st Annual All Native Basketball Tournament got off to roaring start on Feb. 9.
More than 3,000 people packed the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre in Prince Rupert for the opening ceremonies. Tickets were sold out in advance with standing-room-only tickets available on the day.
This year, the ceremony was not led by any single nation as players, singers, dancers, drummers, speakers were all ushered in through one voice of unity from members of the Gathering our Strength Canoe Journey. Any team rivalries were put aside and forgotten during the thunderous drumming, singing, dancing and crowd ovations of the evening.
Several times throughout the opening ceremonies of the annual event, crowds chanted in unison, “Who are we? We’re one nation.”
“One of our beliefs, what we try to instill in everybody, is the Canoe Journey is one nation. It is an individual nation on its own. That’s why we call it, “Gathering Our Strength”, Gerald Robinson, one of the leaders of the group, says.
Paddlers were led into the gymnasium by drummers and followed by a song from the house of Baxkap. The singing switched to a welcoming song as the chiefs and matriarchs entered. Multiple nations including Haida Gwaii, Kitkatla, Lax Kw’alaams, Nisga’a and Bella Bella incorporated songs of culture dance and drumming into the evening.
“People are starting to open their eyes to the fact that everybody is unique in their own way as nations, but where there is a gathering like the All Native, all the nations are coming together as one to paddle. One voice and only one route.”
The feeling of unity and coming together was prominent among the participants and attendees on opening day.
“I love the games, and the opening ceremonies,” says Rupert resident George Price. “It is a great opportunity to see family and friends again.”
Another Prince Rupert resident echoed the sentiment.
“I’ve only missed one year of the tournament in my life and that was when I was pregnant,” Tracy Cochrane says, “I haven’t missed it at all in 19 years.”
Cochrane came to the opening ceremonies to support her husband and grandson who were participants during the opening ceremonies.
“I thoroughly enjoyed it,” Cochrane says.
As the evening closed the final announcement was made to loud applause that the 2021 ANBT would be led by the Haida Nation.
View the 2020 All Native Basketball Tournament daily highlights at www.thenorthernview.com.