Basketball players compete at all native tourney

A Comox Valley group experienced an exceptional Easter Weekend visiting the Village of Klemtu in the Great Bear Rainforest.

Eighteen locals, sponsored by Marine Harvest Canada, were given an opportunity of a lifetime March 29-April 2 by travelling up the coast north of Vancouver Island, into the land of spirit bears (Kermodes), eagles, whales, dolphins, ravens and wolves — and accommodating locals who have been living in the area for centuries.

The group included students and basketball players from Vanier Secondary, local masters players, teachers, Marine Harvest family members, a photographer and a player from Bella Bella. The group was invited to an All Native Basketball Tournament — the first Island team to do so.

“It was an unbelievable honour, and the hospitality was tremendous,” Vanier basketball coach Larry Street said.

A two-hour water taxi trip was needed to reach Klemtu, home of the Kitasoo/Xai’xais Nation. Archie Robinson is the hereditary long-standing Chief of the Kitasoo, and a fan of basketball.

The other coastal communities playing basketball included the Heiltsuk Nation from Bella Bella and the Haisla Nation from Kitimat. There were seven men’s teams in the mixed tournament. The women had three teams from Klemtu and Bella Bella.

One of the local players, Doug Neasloss, travels up and down the coast on behalf of the village. He is a talented ball player.

“This gym was filled with not just players, but fans who are unlike no other on the Central Coast from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy who have extreme passion for the game of basketball,” Street said. “Include Alaska and Vancouver Island, and all-Nations basketball is thriving.

“The young men from Vanier experienced something that will last forever in their lives. Some had never been on an airplane, or a large fish boat, or eaten herring roe, or been subjected to ‘All Native Ball,’ which can be fast, aggressive and passionate.”

The boys held their own and won all three games they played. They were rewarded with mementoes and even won cash, which they donated back to village junior basketball programs.

The masters mixed team lost their second game, so they needed to win four in a row Sunday to reach the final, but lost the fourth game.

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