The Ontario Native Basketball Invitational brings together teams from across Ontario to compete in a friendly, yet competitive invitational tournament. Youth ages 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).
The 2019 ONBI was hosted in Thunder Bay, ON, during the Easter long-weekend (April 19-21). The 5th edition of the invitational-style tournament featured a total of eight (8) male teams and four (4) female teams who played at Superior Collegiate & Vocational Institute and Westgate Collegiate & Vocational Institute.
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.
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.
If you are interested in learning how you can host the Ontario Native Basketball Invitational in your region, please contact a member of the ISWO Sports team at Keir.Johnston@iswo.ca or Mekwan.Tulpin@iswo.ca.