Ahtahkakoop WHL players honoured at Blades game
- NC Raine | January 15, 2019
Two hockey players, members of the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation, were honoured before Saskatoon Blades game, on Saturday night.
Jaydon Dureau and Haydn Delorme, 18 and 19 years of age, respectively, are both forwards for the Portland Winterhawks Western Hockey League (WHL) team, and originate from the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation in northwest Saskatchewan. The two athletes were acknowledged as a part of the Blades’ annual First Nations Night – a yearly Blades’ tradition aiming to foster appreciation and reconciliation with Saskatchewan’s First Nations people.
“We’re really honoured to have a great relationship with our friends in the First Nations,” said Steve Hogle, Saskatoon Blades President. “I think it’s critical, especially at this time, when we’re on this road to reconciliation, to take time and do everything in our power to heighten understanding, awareness, and appreciation for our First Nations heritage.”
On January 12, in front of a large crowd at Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon, the First Nations Night opened with an honour drum song and dance from a group of students from Confederation Park School in Saskatoon. Over 100 students and parents from the school were invited to the game to share their culture and support their athletes.
“I think it’s great for children, from all areas, to see us salute these guys from various backgrounds realize their dreams,” said Hogle. “To see them achieve a major milestone.”
Dureau and Delorme were then joined on the ice by Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation Chief Larry Ahenakew, Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Mark Arcand, and the other four leaders from the Battleford Agency Tribal Chiefs (Moosomin, Red Pheasant, Sweetgrass, and Saulteaux), as well as Fred Sasakamoose, elder at Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation and one of the first Canadian Indigenous hockey players to play in the NHL. Chiefs’ Arcand and Ahenakew presented Dureau and Delorme with star blankets to honour their journey and dedication in sport.
Dureau and Delorme were unavailable for comment prior to Saturday’s game. Chief Ahenakew spoke on the significance of the two hockey players’ accomplishments.
“It’s a very big honour,” Ahenakew said. “Especially for the two boys, playing with the Portland Winterhawks, they are honoured to be able to have Freddy (Sasakamoose) here watching them tonight. We are all really proud.”
Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation, which has a population of 3581, almost 1200 of which are under the age of 18, use events and opportunities such as the First Nations Night to reinforce their commitment to the education of their young people, said Ahenakew.
“I think seeing these boys being role models – it shows they never gave up. We always push education to be first. With education, as with sports, you always have to give it your hardest,” said Ahenakew. “We always encourage our youth to focus on education, and through that comes opportunities in sports. We hope tonight shows our kids to never give up.”
STC Chief Mark Arcand said he’d like to see less disparity in sports for young First Nations people.
“We really want to recognize our young people who are breaking the system, so to speak. And that system is - we hardly have any First Nations kids in the higher levels of any sports,” said Arcand. “To us, it’s an inspiring event. We have to honour those individuals who are leading the way, and get younger kids to look up to them and say ‘I want to be just like them.’ We have Freddy Sasakamoose, and (Dureau and Delorme) from his community. It’s a big generation gap, but at least it’s making movement.”