The 2019 Ontario Native Basketball Invitational (ONBI) showcased community spirit, excellence in basketball, and true sportsmanship – inspiring Indigenous youth to reach higher.


Thunder Bay, Ontario – April 26, 2019 – A total of eight Boys and four Girls teams, along with their coaches, participated in the fifth annual Ontario Native Basketball Invitational (ONBI), over the Easter long-weekend (April 19-21) in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

The event was a resounding success. From the high-caliber basketball on display, to the community spirit and camaraderie, to the support from volunteers, local elders and leaders, Indigenous organizations and nearby communities, to the incredible sportsmanship showcased on and off the court – the 2019 ONBI left an indelible impression on the participants, the spectators and the City of Thunder Bay.

“On and off the court, this was my best visit to Thunder Bay. I had a great time watching, and the teams had a lot of fun” said Grand Chief Glen Hare of the Union of Ontario Indians. “The tournament was well run and the organization of it was extremely professional.”

The basketball was, not surprisingly, the star attraction. The teams were well stacked for competition, with fast-paced games that proved to be nail biters from start to finish; family and friends were on-hand watching anxiously, encouraging from the sidelines and cheering on the teams. For the Girls semi-final, Pelican Falls and Anemki Thunderbirds from Thunder Bay, played for bronze, with Pelican Falls taking the game at a score of 41-21. Treaty 3 and Sudbury played hard for gold in the final, with a close game, resulting in a championship win for Treaty 3 with a final score of 69-50.

The Boys semi-final showcased the Sudbury Martens facing off against Treaty 3 in an extremely close matchup for the bronze medal, with the Sudbury Martens just taking the win at a score of 68-66. The gold medal championship final for the Boys, featured the Niagara Regional Native Centre (NRNC) tipping off against Hamilton, in a game that had everybody at the edge of their seats. The gold medal championship for the boys went to the NRNC with a final score of 58-44.

“The kids played their hearts out and demonstrated true sportsmanship” said Marc Laliberte, President of Indigenous Sport & Wellness Ontario. “They truly exemplified Indigenous values in the manner in which they conducted themselves, on and off court, bringing pride to their families and communities. The 2019 ONBI was more than basketball, it was an opportunity for youth to play a game they love, develop their skills, make some friends and be part of an amazing

experience they will remember for a lifetime. It was magic on that court; proving again that sport has the power to change lives.”

While competition and basketball excellence dominated the court, community engagement, friendship and a celebration of Indigenous culture, ruled off the court. Participants, coaches, officials, volunteers, family and community members participated in a community feast, supported by the City of Thunder Bay, on the Friday evening of the tournament, with blessings from Elder Gerry Martin and a welcome from Fort Williams First Nation. In addition to the community feast, the Thunder Bay Indigenous Friendship Centre was on hand to provide opportunities for cultural learning and activity, in addition to support from the Nishnawbe Aski Police Service throughout the tournament, ensuring youth felt safe and supported.

Overall, the 2019 ONBI provided a platform for community building and positive role modeling; an opportunity for youth to feel hopeful, connected and celebrated – it was #BiggerThanBasketball.


About ONBI

The Ontario Native Basketball Invitational (ONBI) brings together teams from across Ontario to compete in a friendly, yet competitive invitational style tournament. Indigenous youth of high school age (between the ages of 14-18) travel with their teams and family members to compete and have fun. With a number of cultural and leadership activities offered throughout the entire tournament, ONBI builds confidence, creates friendships and strengthens communities, while creating opportunities for Indigenous youth to participate in competitive sport with their peers. The ONBI is also an identifier for participation in the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG).


Indigenous Sport & Wellness Ontario (ISWO) Quick Facts:

  • ISWO is the designated Provincial/Territorial Aboriginal Sport Body (P/TASB) for the province of Ontario, primarily funded through the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport.
  • ISWO serves all Indigenous Peoples and communities across the province of Ontario, including First Nations, Inuit and Métis, living on and off-reserve, in rural and urban settings, encompassing more than 350,000 Indigenous Peoples.
  • ISWO promotes and creates opportunities for participation in sport and cultural activities that promote wellness and positive lifestyles for Indigenous Peoples across Ontario.
  • ISWO provides opportunities for physical literacy and competitive sport skill development and training by creating sport development pathways, designed specifically for Indigenous youth.
  • ISWO is recognized by the Aboriginal Sport Circle (ASC) and the North American Indigenous Games Council, and is the designated sport body for the development, selection and management of Team Ontario, which participates in the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships (NAHC) and North American Indigenous Games (NAIG).


For more information about ISWO, visit




ISWO honours the traditional lands and homelands of all Indigenous Peoples and communities across the province of Ontario, including First Nations, Inuit and Métis living both on and off reserve, in rural and urban communities.


Contact Information:

Indigenous Sport & Wellness Ontario (ISWO)

Kylie Thompson, Communications and Media Coordinator


City of Thunder Bay

Kelly Robertson, General Manager – Community Services