It was four years ago when an advertisement for the North American Indigenous Games posted on the wall of an elementary school, captivated the imagination of a nine-year-old from Wikwemikong First Nation. This summer her dreams of competing at the Games will finally come true.
Francesca Pheasant, now 13-years-old, had been involved in running programs at school since age-six and over the past two years began training with the Newmarket Huskies AAA Cross-Country Running Club. Her hard work has paid off as she will be competing in athletics at the Toronto 2017 NAIG and she couldn’t be happier about it.
“The poster caught my attention immediately buy I wasn’t old enough,” said Pheasant. “Four years I’ve waited for this this and now that I have the chance to participate in NAIG I feel ecstatic. It means everything to me.”
Also a ballerina and hockey player, Pheasant says she has had her fair share of challenges competing in sport. Living on her reserve in Northern Ontario, her local coach trains her under the correspondence supervision of her club trainer who is based hours away. She has had to travel long distances for most of her competitive events but has been willing to make the sacrifice knowing there are people looking to her as an example.
“Living an active lifestyle is important to me because it makes me a good role model to my younger sisters,” said Pheasant. “Being active helps you stay away from trouble and keep you from going down the wrong path in life.”
One of only two students chosen to represent Canada and the Wikwemikong First Nation at the 2015 Children’s Climate Summit in Sodertalje, Sweden, for Pheasant being an ambassador of her Indigenous community is something very close to her heart. More than just traditions, the young teenager believes in the power of culture to help to bring about healing and reconciliation.
“Culture is so important that it has to be kept for thousands of years, and be passed on from generation to generation,” said Pheasant. “Culture can make invisible connections between members of a community and can hold people with the same cultural background together.