VANCOUVER, Jan. 31 /CNW/ - To help celebrate the world's biggest potlatch - the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games - up-and-coming young Aboriginal leaders from across Canada are gathering today in British Columbia's Sea to Sky region as part of an ambitious forum to explore and share their cultures through the Olympic Movement.
Over the next 16 days, more than 300 First Nations, Inuit and Métis youth, aged 19 to 29, will experience the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be at Canada's Games in person and showcase their culture and region through a range of activities and special events.
As part of the gathering, participants will tour Olympic venues, watch the world's best athletes train and compete and meet sport heroes, business leaders and Aboriginal elders in person. They will also take part in cultural performances at the 2010 Aboriginal Pavilion and the GG's 2010 Olympic Truce Youth Dialogue: Promoting Mutual Understanding hosted by Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, on February 11.
"It is truly exciting to welcome all these young ambassadors from First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities across the country to the traditional lands of the Lil'wat, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations where the 2010 Winter Games will take place," said Tewanee Joseph, executive director and CEO of the Four Host First Nations.
"This gathering is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be right in the centre of the action at the Games and play an important role in showcasing and sharing Aboriginal culture. The 2010 Winter Games mark a time of transformation for our people, where we focus on the positive aspects of our culture. These young people represent a great hope and a brighter future for Aboriginal people for years to come."
The Vancouver 2010 Indigenous Youth Gathering is part of a larger ongoing program to achieve unprecedented Aboriginal participation in the planning and hosting of the 2010 Winter Games by the Four Host First Nations and the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC) with the support of many partners.
The Government of Canada is a key supporter of this vision and has worked closely with VANOC and the Four Host First Nations to ensure the Games leave a legacy of economic and social benefits for Aboriginal peoples in Canada.
"The 2010 Indigenous Youth Gathering will provide First Nations, Inuit and Métis youth from across Canada with a unique opportunity to connect with one another and to celebrate and showcase their cultural heritage through the Olympic Movement," said the Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages.
In addition to the Government of Canada, the gathering is supported by BC Hydro, Alberta, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Council of Yukon First Nations, as well as, the Aboriginal Youth Sport Legacy fund, 2010 Legacies Now, and regional and national Aboriginal organizations.
"The Province of British Columbia is proud to welcome these young Aboriginal leaders for this historic gathering as part of the 2010 Winter Games," said the Honourable Gordon Campbell, premier of British Columbia. "This 16-day program is sure to take them on an amazing journey with lasting friendships made right here in British Columbia."
The programming for the Vancouver 2010 Indigenous Youth Gathering, which runs until February 14, is connected to the pillars of the Olympic Movement: sport, culture, sustainability, as well as the objectives of the Olympic Truce (youth, action, legacy, awareness, and peace).
"The importance of recognizing and working in close partnership with Aboriginal peoples in Canada through the Four Host First Nations has been a primary focus for everyone as we developed our plans for the 2010 Winter Games," explained John Furlong, VANOC's Chief Executive Officer. "It is our sincere hope that this unique gathering and opportunity to live the excitement of the Games first hand will be an inspirational experience for these young Aboriginal leaders in Canada - one they can take back to their communities and share as a lasting legacy of the friendships and knowledge they will gain here."
Participants will be housed in accommodation sites located in the pristine and breathtaking Paradise Valley of Squamish in the Sea to Sky region. The sites offer educational programs on forestry and wildlife, salmon habitats, a bald eagle sanctuary, as well as traditional connections to the land.
"Squamish is pleased to extend a big welcome to the more than 300 participants of the Vancouver 2010 Indigenous Youth Gathering to our district, the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada," said Squamish Mayor Greg Gardner. "We're ideally located to host a group of this size and scope because of our proximity to Olympic and Paralympic venues in Vancouver and Whistler."
VANOC is responsible for the planning, organizing, financing and staging of the XXI Olympic Winter Games and the Paralympic Winter Games in 2010. The 2010 Olympic Winter Games will be staged in Vancouver and Whistler from February 12 to 28, 2010. Vancouver and Whistler will host the Paralympic Winter Games from March 12 to 21, 2010. Visit www.vancouver2010.com.
About the Four Host First Nations Society
The Four Host First Nations Society is a not-for-profit organization that has been established to coordinate the participation in the 2010 Winter Games by the Lil'wat, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. Visit www.fourhostfirstnations.com.
SOURCE VANCOUVER ORGANIZING COMMITTEE FOR THE 2010 OLYMPIC AND PARALYMPIC WINTER GAMES
For further information: For further information: Media contacts: Dallas Squire, Four Host First Nations Communications, E-mail: FHFNcommunications@gmail.com, Tel: (778) 990-9545; Katie Green, VANOC Communications, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: (604) 404-6273