Courtesy Dave Wahl
The Skidegate Saints traveled to New Zealand last summer to play against the Maori National Team.

Calling International Ballers: Indigenous World Basketball Challenge Planned for August 2016

Jack McNeel

Basketball is big throughout Indian Country and in indigenous communities throughout the world. Dave Wahl, head coach of the Skidegate Saints Men’s team located off the British Columbia coast on Haida Gwai, plans to tap into this global appeal by hosting an Indigenous basketball tournament this August in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The Skidegate Saints have won the All-Native Tournament held in Prince Rupert, B.C. the past five years and have received incredible support from coastal people. The team traveled to New Zealand last summer to play against the Maori National Team and the success of that series and cultural exchange was so outstanding that it inspired the international tournament planned for this summer. The tournament will consist of 16 teams, with each team to play four games.

Though travel costs are high, Wahl reports that 12 teams have already signed up. In addition to his host team and the Maori National Team that will visit Canada this summer, another 10 teams have indicated they plan to attend. Included are the Senior Men’s National Team from Papua New Guinea, Team South Dakota, Team Saskatchewan, Team Minnesota, the Heiltsuk Nation from British Columbia, Team Winnipeg, Six Nations from Ontario, Team Vancouver, Team Seminole, and most recently, Team New Mexico G Elite.

Several others have expressed interest, and it’s likely the National Samoan team will attend. Wahl said the Bermuda National Team and Haitian National Team are also interested but have not yet committed.

According to Wahl, that still leaves room for several more teams. “My hope is to get another international team.”

Wahl talked of the cultural exchange in last summer’s visit to the Maori people of New Zealand and how similar exchanges will take place this summer. “The Maori team performed a haka before games. It was an incredible experience. The players on our team were so excited. Our team performed Haida men’s’ dances after the games. I think the Maori people and our Haida people felt some sense of connection during our visit.”

The plan for this August calls for other cultural exchanges. “The Maori will again do a haka before every game,” Wahl explained. “I know the Maori are bringing a lot of cultural leaders and elders. Certainly the Haida will do some cultural presentations. We’ve also put out to other teams that there will be opportunities for cultural sharing for any team that wants to.”

Dave Wahl, head coach of the Skidegate Saints Men’s team  (Photo: Courtesy)

The plan is to have representation from throughout North America as evidenced by those teams already committed. Few openings still exist so Wahl added “we’re going to be selective in who we add.” However he doesn’t want to discourage possible teams.

Wahl’s visions for the future call for such an event every two years in different locations. “In two years, it will possibly be in New Zealand or in Australia. I think all those south pacific islands will be represented.

“We hope we can grow this event. We’re really appreciative of all these teams that will come and I’d like to hear from anyone with ideas on how to grow this tournament. It’s a really exciting event and we are hoping to eventually change the name to the World Indigenous Basketball Championships. We’ll be having meetings during the tournament to talk about the idea of growing this tournament.”

The Indigenous Basketball World Challenge will take place at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia from August 10-13.

Teams with interest in being a part of this Indigenous World Basketball Challenge can contact Dave Wahl by email at [email protected]

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