By Mervin Brass

Tony Cote summer games

Former Cote First Nation Chief, Tony Cote, helped march in close to 3000 athletes during the opening ceremonies for the 2015 First Nation Summer Games. Photo credit: Treaty 4 News.

(Ochapowace Nation) Thousands of athletes dressed in a multitude of colours marched around the 2015 First Nation Summer Games track to open the largest First Nation summer sporting event of the year in Saskatchewan.

Close to 3000 athletes from 13 Tribal Councils, including independent bands, are participating in this year’s summer games.
“Oh! It’s getting there, it’s getting there,” says Tony Cote, the former Chief of the Cote First Nation. He was one of two veterans to carry in the Eagle Staff during the opening ceremonies.

Cote is credited as the founder of the games. His band hosted the first ever summer games in 1974. “My vision was to try and get our athletes to compete in the provincial games, Dominion games, national games and eventually see our better athletes get into the Olympics. That was my vision.”

When Cote organized the summer games in 1974 there were very few sponsors to help with the costs.

“I really had to go around and beg for my sponsors,” says Cote with a laugh. “Nobody ever thought someone would dream such a thing.”

“Back when Tony did it they were struggling with money,” says Reg Bellerose, the Chief of the Muskowekwan First Nation and Board Chair of the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority. “Now we’re trying to find a better place in the province of Saskatchewan so there’s more money. So you got to thank those former leaders making it with what little they had.”

Earlier this year SIGA provided a $125,000 sponsorship towards the games.

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