In 1907, Tom Longboat (Cogwagee) ran uphill, in the snow, passing numerous competitors, and even a train to set a new record at the Boston Marathon. Cogwagee, an Onondaga from Six Nations, began his running career as a child, playing with his siblings, and later running to escape a residential school. Cogwagee won numerous races around the world and participated in the London Olympics. He served in the Canadian military and competed as a professional runner. Cogwagee has been recognized as one of the top Canadian heroes of all time, and as a role model for aspiring Aboriginal athletes.
What does it mean to be an Aboriginal athlete in Canada? Cogwagee encountered many obstacles throughout his racing career; obstacles, which unfortunately continue to greet many Aboriginal athletes today. Numerous Aboriginal athletes have represented Canada at the Olympics and beyond, yet racism and lack of inclusion are among the barriers that Canadian Aboriginal athletes may face.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action detail several recommendations regarding sport, including:
“We call upon the federal government to amend the Physical Activity and Sport Act to support reconciliation by ensuring that policies to promote physical activity as a fundamental element of health and well-being, reduce barriers to sports participation, increase the pursuit of excellence in sport, and build capacity in the Canadian sport system, are inclusive of Aboriginal peoples” (89)
“We call upon all levels of government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, sports halls of fame, and other relevant organizations, to provide public education that tells the national story of Aboriginal athletes in history.” (87)
It is our hope at Crawford Lake, that through our new Games of Kanata exhibit we can support the reconciliation process. This exhibit recognizes and celebrates the immeasurable contribution of Canadian Aboriginal people to sport in our nation. Rene Meshake’s “Running with the Deer”, poetry and images will inform and inspire you, as will the stories of our 3 amazing athletes.
The Games of Kanata exhibit also includes archery, lacrosse presentations and special guest lectures. Please visit the Conservation Halton events calendar for more information.
With great thanks to: Rene Meshake, Mary Spencer, Darren Zack, Richard Peter, Wheelchair Basketball Canada and the Government of Canada Community Celebration Fund. Crawford Lake gratefully acknowledges the Government of Canada and the Community Celebration Fund for their support of this project.