Healthy Living in the North

2014 All Native Basketball Tournament: More than a sporting event

Basketball painted with First Nations art

The 2015 All Native Basketball Tournament runs from Feb. 8-14 in Prince Rupert. In addition to the high-performance sport, the tournament is a place for connection, community, health, and culture to come together.

Unity, pride, and community: these are the off-court principles that push the All Native Basketball Tournament to its inarguable success. Held in Prince Rupert every February, 2014’s event drew thousands of spectators and 56 basketball teams from aboriginal communities across the north. Being held for over 50 years, it has the honour of being the longest-held sports event in B.C.

It is a destination and focus for northern communities, as the prestige associated with the tournament encourages healthy choices by team members, their families and supporters in the run-up to the games themselves. For many communities, the annual trip to the tournament is an important social and cultural event as they can gather with friends and families from other remote communities. The sport and cultural atmosphere is a powerful connection and place of belonging for the communities and Nations who attend.

Northern Health tobacco reduction sign that reads: "Basketball Yes, Tobacco No"

Northern Health has been involved in the All Native Basketball Tournament since 2006. If you are at the tournament this year, stop by and say hello!

Northern Health is proud to be part of the event since 2006, which started with one lone table on tobacco reduction. Since then, Northern Health’s presence has grown alongside of the tournament. In the past, we have offered a more clinical service through the offering of health screenings. In 2014, we sponsored and hosted a quiet space furnished with cozy furniture and low lighting. This space offered a retreat where Elders could rest in comfort, nursing moms could feed their babies in peace, and traditional stories were shared. Health screenings were still offered, but the focus was on the gathering and comforting space, rather than the clinical space. The space was reflective of supporting a complete healthy community; a way of integrating social and cultural gathering with health services. While the tournament is an important contributor to the health and well-being of northern First Nations, in 2014, for the first time, people spoke of the tournament as a place where, sport, culture and health comes together.


This article was co-authored by Theresa Healy and Doreen Bond and originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of A Healthier You.

Theresa Healy

About Theresa Healy

Theresa is the regional manager for healthy community development with Northern Health’s population health team and is passionate about the capacity of individuals, families and communities across northern B.C. to be partners in health and wellness. As part of her own health and wellness plan, she has taken up running and, more recently, weight lifting. She is also a “new-bee” bee-keeper and a devoted new grandmother. Theresa is an avid historian, writer and researcher who also holds an adjunct appointment at UNBC that allows her to pursue her other passionate love - teaching.

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National Aboriginal Day: A celebration of family and culture

June 21 was National Aboriginal Day – a day for Northern Aboriginal groups to come together and celebrate their culture and achievements.

NH reps at Aboriginal Day

L-R: Julia Stephenson, Joan Greenlees and Laura Johnston were three of the NH representatives talking to people about health and wellness at the Aboriginal Day celebrations.

Fort George Park, the traditional territory of the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation, was the site of celebrations in Prince George this year, and I dropped by in the morning to visit the folks at the Northern Health booth and catch the opening remarks. It was 10:30a.m. but already the sun was hot and there was a crowd milling about the local organizations’ booths (I saw Canadian Red Cross, UNBC, and the Northern BC First Nations HIV/AIDS Coalition, to name a few), and food and craft vendors.

I was welcomed at the Northern Health booth by Laura Johnston, a tobacco reduction coordinator from Population Health; Joan Greenlees, executive assistant for Northern Cancer Control Strategy and Aboriginal Health; and Julia Stephenson, an SFU practicum student working on her master’s degree in Public Health, who were all there to share information about NH public health and population health services, like healthy eating and quitting smoking.

“It’s good to have so many groups come together,” said Stephenson, who was happy to be helping Northern Health share health and wellness information with the public at the event. “The Aboriginal community is important and we want to celebrate everything they’re doing for our area.”

Bloodborne pathogens team

Trish Howard and Sandra Barnes were representing the NH bloodborne pathogens team, raising awareness about HIV/AIDS.

Next to the NH booth were some representatives of the new HIV101 campaign. I met Trish Howard, the Aboriginal Coordinator for the blood borne pathogens integration team, and Sandra Barnes, an HIV designate nurse. They were both in attendance to raise awareness and educate people about HIV/AIDS with the goal of reducing the stigma around the disease.

“Our biggest thing is getting the message out – HIV is not a death sentence,” said Barnes. “Early diagnosis is key – so get tested. If you’re sexually active, get tested.”

Barnes shared a frightening statistic: 25% of people that have HIV don’t know they have it, and it’s believed that this 25% is responsible for up to 75% of new infections.

“You can’t stop the spread if you don’t know, but we have everything to control it.” Barnes said being at events like the Aboriginal Day celebrations is important for their initiative because when you bring people together for a common goal, it’s easier to talk about difficult things when it’s out in the public.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Louella Nome, a community health rep and band councillor for Lheidli T’enneh. I asked her about the importance of events like this celebration to her community.

“It’s great – it’s about bringing people together and unity,” Nome said. “It’s building bridges – our strength comes in numbers.” She was excited to have a lot of family members together in one place.

And that’s really what the day was all about – celebrating family and being together.

Jessica Quinn

About Jessica Quinn

Jessica Quinn is the regional manager of health promotion and community engagement for Northern Health, where she is actively involved in promoting the great work of NH staff to encourage healthy, well and active lifestyles. She also manages NH's social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc). When she's not working, Jessica stays active by exploring the beautiful outdoors around Prince George via kayak, hiking boots or snowshoes, and she has recently completed her master's degree in professional communications from Royal Roads University, with a focus on the use of social media in health care.

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