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4 Athletes Who've Made #IndigenousImpact

As some of you may know, NNDDC is a company stock full of readers. Whether it's through dynamic storytelling or informative non-fiction, there is always something rich to be learned from these incredible authors. Indigenous People’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the strength, brilliance and excellence in Indigenous identity. In fact, our world wouldn’t look like it does today without the work and impact of Indigenous people from across Turtle Island. This week, we’re highlighting #IndigenousImpact across “Scientists & Inventors”, “Authors”, “Athletes”, and “Leaders”. We're sharing stories that aim to acknowledge their legacies and inspire future generations to continue in their path.

Today we're focusing on the incredible Indigenous athletes that have demonstrated skill and ability on the world's stage.

Angela Chalmers, born on September 6, 1963, in Brandon, Manitoba, is a celebrated middle-distance runner of Sioux heritage from the Birdtail Sioux First Nation. She gained international acclaim in the late 1980s and early 1990s, notably winning a bronze medal in the 3,000 meters at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Chalmers also secured gold in the 1,500 meters and 3,000 meters at the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland, and another gold in the 3,000 meters at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, making her the first Indigenous athlete to win an Olympic gold medal for Canada.

Her achievements have made her a role model for Indigenous youth, demonstrating the power of perseverance and dedication. Beyond her athletic prowess, Chalmers actively promotes sports and physical activity among Indigenous communities, fostering the development of future athletes. Her legacy is marked by her contributions to the empowerment and representation of Indigenous peoples in sports.

Sharon and Shirley Firth, born in Aklavik, Northwest Territories, were trailblazing Canadian Indigenous cross-country skiers from the  Gwich'in First Nation. Raised in Inuvik, the twins became national  figures in the sport, representing Canada in four consecutive Winter Olympics from 1972 to 1984.

The Firth sisters' dominance in cross-country skiing was evident through their impressive achievements. They collectively secured 79 medals at the national championships and played crucial roles in elevating the profile of Indigenous athletes in Canada. They were members of the Territorial Experimental Ski Training Program, an initiative designed to encourage Indigenous youth to participate in competitive skiing. Their success helped to break down barriers and inspire future generations of Indigenous athletes.

In recognition of their contributions, Sharon and Shirley were inducted into the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame in 1990. They were also appointed to the Order of Canada in 1987, acknowledging their exceptional achievements and dedication to sport and community.

Sharon and Shirley Firth's legacy extends beyond their athletic prowess. They are celebrated for their commitment to promoting sports and physical activity among Indigenous communities, fostering opportunities for youth engagement and development. Their story is a testament to resilience, perseverance, and the enduring impact of sports.

Gino Odjick was a renowned professional hockey player from Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg Reservation. Known for his role as an enforcer, Odjick played twelve seasons in the NHL, primarily with the Vancouver Canucks, and also with the New York Islanders, Philadelphia Flyers, and Montreal Canadiens. His gritty playing style and fearless presence on the ice earned him a dedicated fan base.

Odjick's contributions extended beyond hockey; he was a significant figure in promoting Indigenous representation in sports. Throughout his career, he was actively involved in community work, advocating for Indigenous youth and supporting various charitable initiatives.

Despite health challenges, including a rare heart condition diagnosed in 2014, Odjick remained a beloved and influential figure until his passing on January 15, 2023. His legacy lives on through his impact on the sport and his dedication to Indigenous communities, inspiring future generations of athletes.

JR LaRose, born in Edmonton, Alberta, is a distinguished Canadian Indigenous former professional football player of Cree and Oneida heritage, and a member of One Arrow First Nation. LaRose played as a safety in the Canadian Football League (CFL), primarily with the BC Lions and the Edmonton Eskimos. He was known for his tenacity, leadership, and defensive prowess on the field.

LaRose's career highlights include winning the Grey Cup with the BC Lions in 2011. Overcoming numerous challenges, including a serious leg injury early in his career, he became a key player and an inspirational figure in the CFL.

Beyond his athletic achievements, LaRose is celebrated for his advocacy and community work. He is a passionate speaker on issues of Indigenous identity, resilience, and empowerment, often sharing his own journey to inspire Indigenous youth. LaRose’s legacy extends through his dedication to fostering positive change and representation for Indigenous peoples in sports and beyond.


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