Toronto 2017 North American Indigenous Games competitor, and national anthem singer Mary Nahwegahbow has been hitting the right notes both on and off the soccer pitch.
The 15-year-old from the Whitefish River First Nation, will rise before thousands at the Games Opening Ceremony to sing the Canadian national anthem in English, French and Ojibwe, before suiting up to represent Team Ontario’s U16 women’s soccer Team. Passionate about her Indigenous community, Nahwegahbow seems on the road to reaching her athletic and musical goals, but says she has an even greater dream to give back.
“Since I was 4 years old I had three goals, to be a popstar, to play soccer in the Olympics, and to help poor people,” said Nahwegahbow. “When I’m a popstar I want to give money for programs for kids in Indigenous communities. I may never reach the Olympics, but playing soccer in NAIG 2017 means so much.”
Seemingly born for the spotlight the busy ninth grader twice a week attends a music class where she studies drum, guitar and vocal training. She is working on her Grade five Royal Conservatory vocal exam, and has performed before thousands at local talent contests and events such as the Ottawa Tulip festival and the Native Women’s Association of Canada Annual General Assembly.
“You get an adrenaline rush being on stage, and it’s really uplifting when you can make people happy in that way,” said Nahwegahbow. “I’ve had a few people come up to me and ask for pictures and autographs which is special because I’m doing this to pursue my dreams and to be a role model.”
A trained forward and keeper, Nahwegahbow who once scored four points in a single Game, currently plays for the Ottawa South United Under-15 Girls White Force, and has had the opportunity to play in local and international tournaments in Toronto, Vermont, New York and Texas.
The A-student says she was honoured two year ago to be one of only three students from her middle school selected to attend an event in Ottawa commemorating the closing of the last residential school. She says her mother and grandmother have been her biggest inspirations as a young Indigenous woman and hopes to inspire other young people with her vocals and her soccer skills at the Toronto 2017 NAIG.
“It’s an opportunity of a lifetime,” said Nahwegahbow. “I’m so excited to be representing Ontario and my Aboriginal community and I can’t wait to walk into the [Opening Ceremony stadium] with all the other athletes from my team and North America. It means a lot to me and to my family. They are very proud of me.”