‘The feeling is electric’: JANT kicks off with celebration in Snuneymuxw

More than 1,200 Youth players from 91 teams are set to compete in this year’s tournament from March 20 to 24
The 2023 host nation, Snuneymuxw, welcomed visiting teams to their respective territory on March 19. Photo by Julian Stonechild

The Junior All Native Tournament (JANT) kicked off in Snuneymuxw territories on Sunday evening with an opening ceremony and celebration hosted by the First Nation

Guests were welcomed to Frank Crane Arena by Snuneymuxw Councillor Bill Yoachim. Before the Youth athletes entered the building, a prayer was offered by Snuneymuxw Elder Lolly Good, who gently reminded the audience to always think of others. 

As Good took her seat, the lights dimmed and smoke omitted from the entrance to welcome the 91 teams. Representing over 34 Nations — more than 1,200 Youth are set to compete in this year’s tournament. 

Greeted by cheers and loud music, the Youth entered with signs representing their nations and team names. Many Youth danced, representing their respective clans. 

The Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc boys’ teams donned black and orange ribbon shirts, bringing enthusiastic cheers from the audience that shook the arena.

There was excitement in Frank Crane Arena as the opening night of JANT 2023, hosted by Snuneymuxw First Nation, began on March 19. Photo by Julian Stonechild

The games will take place at six different sites across “Nanaimo” this week, from March 20 to 24. 

Canada’s First Nations Radio (CFNR) broadcaster Kiefer Collison said JANT has to be one of the largest Indigenous gatherings, not only in the country, but in the world.

All games are set to be livestreamed by CFNR, the official broadcaster for the JANT games.

“Basketball brings people to a lot of amazing places, and we’re just a couple of kids from the rez ourselves,” said Collison, who is from the Haida Nation. 

“The feeling is electric. What an amazing thing for our people to have.”

Last year’s syilx hosts — also the defending champions — handed over the JANT basketball to Snuneymuxw athlete Jayden Thomas, who is playing for the U17 boys’ team, the Snuneymuxw Native Sons. 

Defending champions, the U17 syilx boys, handed over the JANT basketball to this year’s host nation. Photo by Julian Stonechild

Wyse, who is the head coach for the U17 boys, welcomed the teams, their families and coaches to Snuneymuxw. 

“The court has the power to bring us together from all walks of life. We are making history this year as we welcome 91 teams and 1200 young basketball players,” Wyse said.

“To the 2023 athletes, your training and personal will to compete is a tremendous accomplishment. You are carrying the teachings and hope of our Ancestors.” 

Youth athletes, their families, and coaches filled Frank Crane arena to kick off the 2023 JANT games. As athletes took their seats, Chief Mike Wyse reminded the players that we are all family walking together as one. Photo by Juian Stonechild

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