On April 23, Conestoga Condors women's basketball head coach Dee Channer co-facilitated a workshop focused on supporting Indigenous student-athletes at a conference for athletic directors.
Conestoga Condors women's basketball head coach Dee Channer co-facilitated a workshop focused on supporting Indigenous student-athletes at the CIAAA National Athletic Directors Conference on April 23.
Hosted by the Canadian Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (CIAAA), the annual National Athletic Directors Conference welcomed leaders in school sport from across the country from April 21 to 24 for professional development opportunities, including hour-long workshops which offered exposure to valuable and relevant information. Channer, along with Charlene Camillo, athlete and coach at the North American Indigenous Games, facilitated a session titled Supporting Indigenous Athletes in School Sport.
"As athletic directors, you may not always recognize the effect some decisions, actions, or even common practices have on Indigenous Peoples," said Channer. "Enhancing your awareness and knowledge of Indigenous Peoples, communities and services helps build a supportive environment for Indigenous student-athletes and removes barriers for participation."
Participants in the workshop focused on building relationships with Indigenous student-athletes and working with student campus supports as well as local organizations and communities to enhance understandings of Indigenous identities and experiences. Both Channer and Camillo are former Indigenous student-athletes who use their experience and knowledge to support athletic departments that empower Indigenous students to lead.
At Conestoga, Channer has been instrumental in helping build cross-cultural connections of awareness with the inclusion of Indigenous spiritual practices at games, fostering leadership during team exercises and creating opportunities to educate and acknowledge the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action. With support from the Athletics and Recreation department and Conestoga's Aboriginal Services (Be-Dah-Bin Gamik), the women's basketball team introduced a Smudging ceremony, raising of an eagle feather, and honour song at home games in early 2020. The team also regularly incorporates knowledge sharing at monthly meetings.
As an educator and mentor, Channer also looks for opportunities to highlight Canada's history with Indigenous Peoples by bringing student-athletes to the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre when at away games in Sault St. Marie. While there, Channer not only encourages Indigenous student-athletes to lead discussions but also shares her personal connection to the centre: her mother was taken to Shingwauk at age five.
"As an Indigenous student-athlete, I didn't have anyone to identify with. I didn't even understand my own heritage because of my mother's history with residential schools. As Indigenous Peoples try to regain their identity and knowledge, it's important to help guide Indigenous student-athletes by providing opportunities that empower them," said Channer. "We want to educate, whether it's as teammates or in the community -- and not just Indigenous cultures, but all represented cultures on our team. Education breaks down the stereotypes, stigmas, racism and discrimination that exist when we don't take the time to understand each other."
The CIAAA is a member-based association that promotes educational athletics through the professional development of athletic administrators. With a focus on character and leadership, the association supports positive athletic environments that enhance the learning experience for all students.
Conestoga's Athletics and Recreation department offers programming and facilities designed to engage students and enhance their health and wellness through varsity and extramural athletics, intramural sports and fitness classes.