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Aboriginal Youth, Elders to Play Special Roles in Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay

by NationTalk on March 9, 20091200 Views


VANCOUVER, March 6 – The bright light of the Olympic Flame will shine on Aboriginal communities across Canada during its 106-day journey starting this fall. Carrying the flame’s special message of hope and peace, and keeping its fire burning brightly, will be over 300 Aboriginal people including youth, elders and athletes specially chosen by their communities for these extraordinary tasks.In the coming weeks, First Nations, Inuit and Métis will be invited to submit nominations to their respective organizations assisting the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC) in the Aboriginal torch relay program. Aboriginal people may apply through the Assembly of First Nations (, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (, Métis National Council/Métis Nation BC (, Aboriginal Sport Circle ( and National Association of Friendship Centres (

The torchbearers, flame attendants and honorary elder fire keepers are part of the Aboriginal torch relay program, designed by VANOC in partnership with the Four Host First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations. These torch relay positions are part of a larger ongoing program to achieve unprecedented Aboriginal participation in the planning and hosting of the 2010 Winter Games.

“The Olympic Flame’s message of hope, peace and respect resonates deeply with Aboriginal peoples in Canada,” said Tewanee Joseph, executive director and chief executive officer of the Four Host First Nations, comprising the Lil’wat, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh. “As we host a world event we want our young people to feel the pride as they come out to witness the procession of the Olympic Flame as it makes its way across the country.”

The Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay, presented by Coca-Cola and RBC and supported by the Government of Canada, starts October 30 in Victoria, BC. The Olympic Flame will visit over 100 Aboriginal communities in Canada during the course of the longest domestic torch relay in Olympic history. A list of these communities is attached at the end of this release.

These Aboriginal torch relay positions are separate from the larger torchbearer nomination process open to the general Canadian public through relay presenting partners Coca-Cola and RBC. Interested Aboriginal torchbearer candidates may also apply to these programs at or Both programs invite Canadians to share a brief story about how they plan to make themselves, their community or their country a better place.

The three main areas for Aboriginal torch relay-related opportunities are:


115 community torchbearers: Every Aboriginal community where the torch relay will pass through will have the chance to select a torchbearer they feel best represents their community’s achievements and dreams. He or she will participate in a flame welcome and blessing ceremony with a community elder, as well as carry the flame.

“Fire is a sacred element for First Nations peoples in Canada,” explained National Chief Phil Fontaine of the Assembly of First Nations. “It represents cleansing and renewal. Out of the ashes comes new growth, new thoughts, rebirth of ideas and new ways of being. We hope the Olympic Flame will inspire our young people to be proud of their unique heritage and reach out to fulfill their dreams.”

National Inuit leader Mary Simon, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, added:“Inuit are proud to be part of this exciting journey across Canada, highlighting the people behind the inukshuk. As the Olympic Flame travels from community to community it will carry within its glow the blessings of indigenous peoples. Those blessings, along with Inuit youth protecting the flame on its journey as flame attendants, will help ignite the Olympic Cauldron in Vancouver less than a year from now.”

71 language torchbearers: Although the Olympic Flame is visiting over 1,020 Canadian communities during the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay, it is impossible for it to reach every corner of the second largest country in the world. One factor that connects people separated over great distances is a common language. Seventy-one positions have been set aside for torchbearers representing Aboriginal linguistic groups, including 43 First Nations, seven Inuit and 21 Métis.

“The approximately 350,000 to 400,000 Métis in Canada are spread out over five provinces and the Northwest Territories making it difficult for the Olympic Flame to visit our many communities,” explained Clément Chartier, president of the Métis National Council. “Having over 20 torchbearer positions set aside in recognition of the Métis language, Michif, means our people will be well represented when the flame crosses Canada. Our people — especially our young people — will play a significant role in the countdown to Canada’s Games in 2010.”

20 hero torchbearers: Ten spots each have also been set aside for torchbearers representing Aboriginal heroes in sport, as well as urban Aboriginal community heroes who have acted as mentors and inspirational figures to others. The Aboriginal Sport Circle and National Association of Friendship Centres in collaboration with VANOC will oversee these nomination processes.

“First Nation, Inuit and Métis people in urban areas account for over 50 per cent of the total Aboriginal population in Canada and they make meaningful contributions every day to their communities,” said Vera Pawis Tabobondung, president of the National Association of Friendship Centres. “Carrying a powerful, international symbol like the Olympic Flame will focus light on our urban Aboriginal heroes and showcase their accomplishments.”

“A love of sports, from hockey to unique Aboriginal sports like the knuckle hop or snow snake, unites First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples across this land and keeps our cultures and languages alive,” added George Tex Marshall, chairperson of the Aboriginal Sport Circle. “Being a torchbearer is a great way to recognize the athletes and coaches who promote healthy living and mentorship in our communities and fill us with so much pride as our ambassadors wherever they go.”

Youth Flame Attendants (12)

Once the Olympic Flame is lit in Olympia, Greece, it must be tended to 24 hours a day to ensure it stays lit until the final moments of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. In recognition of the Aboriginal tradition of fire keepers, 12 young men and women, aged 19 to 25, will be selected as flame attendants. They will work alongside the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to maintain the lanterns and keep the backup flames burning. Flame attendants will also guide torchbearers while the flame is carried and passed from torch to torch. Six of the volunteer attendants will be First Nations along with three Inuit and three Métis.

Honorary Elder Fire Keepers (115)

Fire keepers traditionally play a dual role in Aboriginal ceremonies: they are tasked with keeping fires burning during ceremonies as well as teaching the spiritual meanings of the fire. Whenever the Olympic Flame arrives in an Aboriginal community during the Olympic Torch Relay, an elder chosen by his or her people will act as an honorary fire keeper and perform a short welcoming and blessing ceremony for the flame. The role is an honour and acknowledgement of the person’s commitment to the teachings of their nation. There will be approximately 115 fire keepers for the 2010 Olympic Torch Relay.

To be considered for the Aboriginal torch relay positions, nominees must be community-minded and a positive role model to others, as well as strive for excellence in whatever they do. Torchbearers must be aged 13 or older and flame attendants, who will travel with the flame across Canada for over three months, must be between the ages of 19 and 25 by October 30, 2009. For more details and nomination forms, please contact the appropriate Aboriginal organization — the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Métis National Council/Métis Nation BC, National Association of Friendship Centres and Aboriginal Sport Circle.

“Seeing and holding that magnificent Olympic Flame is a transformational and emotional experience,” said John Furlong, VANOC’s Chief Executive Officer. “This is a very special opportunity for Canada’s Aboriginal communities to participate in the Olympic Torch Relay so I encourage all First Nations, Inuit and Métis to nominate individuals that reflect the best in their communities — in guidance and mentorship from elders, vision and hope from youth and sportsmanship and determination from athletes. The Olympic Flame truly symbolizes the best in all of us.”

The Olympic Flame, carried proudly by 12,000 torchbearers young and old, will visit over 1,000 communities in every corner of Canada, including the country’s most northern, southern and eastern points, before arriving back in the host province of British Columbia for the start of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games on February 12, 2010. Further information on the 2010 Olympic Torch Relay is available online at


VANOC is responsible for the planning, organizing, financing and staging of the XXI Olympic Winter Games and the X Paralympic Winter Games in 2010. The 2010 Olympic Winter Games will be staged in Vancouver and Whistler from February 12 to 28, 2010. Vancouver and Whistler will host the Paralympic Winter Games from March 12 to 21, 2010. Visit

About the Four Host First Nations Society

The Four Host First Nations Society is a not-for-profit organization that has been established to coordinate the participation in the 2010 Winter Games by the Lil’wat, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. To learn more about the Four Host First Nations Society, visit

About Coca-Cola and the Olympic Movement

The Coca-Cola Company has been associated with the Olympic Games since 1928 and is the longest continuous corporate supporter of the Olympic Movement. Through the Olympic Games, Coca-Cola encourages people to create their own path of “positivity” in everyday life by believing that anything is possible. The Company’s sponsorship supports National Olympic Committees in more than 200 countries to help athletes train and compete. The Coca-Cola Company is the exclusive non-alcoholic beverage provider to the Olympic Games through 2020. For more information about Coca-Cola Canada, please visit our website at or our parent company’s website at

About RBC

As part of our commitment to helping create a better Canada, RBC sponsors amateur sport, from grassroots programs in local communities to national sport associations that support the development of amateur athletes who compete at home and abroad. Canada’s longest-standing supporter of the Canadian Olympic Team since 1947, RBC continues its sponsorship through the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games and is proud to bring the Olympic Spirit to communities across Canada as co-presenting sponsor of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay. RBC is also a premier sponsor of Hockey Canada, the Canadian Snowboard Team, the Canadian Freestyle Ski Team, Athletics Canada and the Canadian Paralympic Committee. Visit

About the Government of Canada

The Government of Canada is proud to make 2010 a celebration for all Canadians. Through strategic investments in programming and funding, the spirit and excitement will be felt far and wide and leave lasting legacies for future generations. Through the Olympic Torch Relay, the Government of Canada is supporting citizen and community participation, as well as the inclusion of Aboriginal, ethnocultural and official-language communities. For more information on the Government of Canada’s contribution to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, visit

VANOC Communications

The following is a list of Aboriginal communities the Olympic Flame will visit during the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay. More communities may be added at a later date:

New Brunswick (5)
Oromocto (FN/PN)
St. Mary’s

Nova Scotia (6)

Bear River (FN/PN)

Prince Edward Island (1)

Lennox Island

Newfoundland and Labrador (1)


Alberta (5)

Stoney Nation

Saskatchewan (4)

Duck Lake
Lac La Ronge
Moosomin (Cochin)
Saulteaux (Cochin)


Dakota Tipi
Long Plain
Sioux Valley Dakota
St. Laurent

Yukon (2)

Kwanlin Dun
Old Crow

Nunavut (3)


Northwest Territories (3)


Quebec (11)

Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam

Ontario (19)

Chippewas of the Thames
Curve Lake
Fort William
Oneida of the Thames
Red Rock (FN/PN)
Six Nations
Wauzhushik Onigum

British Columbia(50)

Bella Bella
Fort Nelson (FN/PN)
Hagwilget Village
Lake Babine
New Aiyansh
Osoyoos (FN/PN)
Penticton (FN/PN)
Seabird Island
Esquimalt (FN)
Squamish (Xwemelch’stn)
Taku River Tlingit
Tsawwassen (FN/PN)
We Wai Kum
Westbank (FN/PN)

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