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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


July 27, 2002 - Issue 66


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Area Well-represented at Indigenous Games

by Raymond M. Stankoski Norwich Bulletin

MOHEGAN -- For 34 local Native Americans, an upcoming trip north to Canada means participation in their own Olympic Games.

The 2002 North American Indigenous Games, taking place in Winnipeg, Canada, is a sporting competition held every three years for members of North American tribes.

With a heavy Indian presence, especially eastern Connecticut, the Nutmeg State stands to be well represented at the event, which takes place July 25 to Aug. 4.

The state's contingent of athletes and coaches celebrated their participation Wednesday with a picnic send-off at Fort Shantok on the Mohegan reservation near Montville.

"From Connecticut, there are several tribes who will be participating: Schaghticoke, Paucatuck Eastern Pequot, Mashantucket Pequot, and Mohegan," said Sandy Pinault, the leader of Connecticut's tribal delegation. "We have athletes in golf, archery, athletics, riflery, and basketball."

She said a total of 7,360 Native Americans from North America will compete. The games are for athletes of all ages, from teen-agers on up.

In order to participate in the Indigenous Games, an athlete must be a member of a recognized tribe, Pinault said.

The games feature open registration, allowing players from any tribe to register for any sport.

If necessary, the teams hold playoffs to narrow down the field if there are too many people interested in a particular sport.

Pinault said the total number of people from Connecticut attending is impressive.

She said the golf and basketball teams have 10 members each, the archery team two participants and track and field 11. There also is one member on the riflery team.

In addition, there will be 18 chaperones and coaches accompanying the athletes. They are not necessarily tribal members.

Chris Strickland of Montville, a member of the Mohegan tribe, will throw the javelin, shot put and discus. In addition, he'll run the 100-meter dash.

It will be his second Indigenous Games. He participated in 1997, winning a gold medal in the javelin.

"I think I'll do well this year too," he said. "The strength events, javelin and discus, are my strength."

Fellow Mohegan Jason Caron of Montville also will participate in track and field, namely, the 100 meters, the 200 meters, long jump and the 800-meter relay.

He also participated in 1997, earning bronze medals in the 200 meters and 800-meter relay.

"Last time, it was a good experience," he said. "It's a huge event. The best thing about it was the communication with other tribes. You get to see how many different people there are out there from all over."

Elaine Thomas of Groton, a Mohegan, will run the 8.3-kilometer race. She is a long distance runner who has participated in a marathon and has been interested in running since the 1980s.

"It will be a wonderful opportunity to meet people from other tribes," she said. "I also love to run. It's been a passion of mine for many years."

This year also promises to be extra special for the current team as, for the first time, it will send a Special Olympian to the Indigenous Games.

Anju Ramabhushanam, a Mohegan from Montville, won numerous medals in both the regional and state competition of the Special Olympics this year.

Ramabhushanam - a track-and-field athlete - said he looks forward to being able to compete. His mother, Gay Story Hamilton, chairman for the Council of Elders, will be his chaperon.

"It will be an opportunity to go and be with other Indian athletes," she said. "It'll be wonderful. I hope there will be a lot of cultural things so we can see how much diversity there is in Indian culture.

"People are starting to see us as individual tribes," she said. "There was a period of time when people had stereotypes of Plains Indians. We all have a job in all of the tribes to educate people about our own individual cultures."

For more information on the 2002 Indigenous Games, log on to

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