At long last, the Tony Cote Games are back.
After the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the Games for the past two years, James Smith Cree Nation is set to play host to the 2022 Tony Cote First Nations Summer Games, scheduled from July 24-30.
The Saskatchewan First Nations Summer Games began in 1974 under the leadership of Tony Cote, who was the first Chief of the Cote First Nation. The Games were an idea of Cote’s to provide opportunities in sport to youth who were excluded from mainstream sport systems.
In 1980, the Winter Games were added, and it was in 2017, nearly 43 after Tony Cote’s vision came to fruition, that the Games were renamed in his honour.
“At least I’ll be known for a little while anyway,” Cote joked, during a 2017 interview with Global Saskatoon after the Games were renamed.
Before passing away in 2019, Cote was a contributor to sport as an administrator, programmer and coach, and helped in the construction of the Cote Recreational Complex on the Cote First Nations — the first artificial ice surface on a Saskatchewan First Nation.
Cote was a Tom Longboat Award winner — an annual award presented to an Aboriginal athlete for their contribution to sport in the country by the Aboriginal Sport Circle. A residential school survivor, Cote was also inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in 2011.
There were roughly 500 competitors at those first Games back in 1974, and according to Korey Diehl, who is Games Manager for this year’s edition, 4,000 athletes are set to compete in 2022.
“It’s just nice to get everybody back, get them competing again and get everybody excited about the Games,” said Diehl.
“It’s been a while — I know some of the kids have missed out, so I’m just really excited that none of our youth are going to miss out on any more Games.”
The 2019 Games were the last to take place. Cote passed away just a few weeks later, meaning this will be the first year of the Games where he won’t be in attendance. For Diehl, the return serves as another opportunity to honour Cote and ensure his legacy is one that lives on.
“He’s the guy who put this all together. This is how we honour him,” said Diehl.
“He was one of the first to speak on this that we needed some sort of program that would help better our young First Nations athletes and put them on a platform.”
Archery, athletics, beach volleyball, canoe/kayak, golf, softball, soccer will be the seven sport disciplines at the Games, with events set to be held in Saskatoon. For more information on the Games, visit tonycotesummergames.ca