Athletes return home from North American Indigenous games with medals, new experiences

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer

Athletes returned to the Rainy River District from the 2023 North American Indigenous Games last week after traveling to Halifax to compete.

Team Ontario came third overall in the medal standings, with a total of 128, Saskatchewan finished first with 176 medals and British Columbia came second with 160 however, Team Ontario did finish with the most gold medals at 55.

One big winner from the Fort Frances area was swimmer Ayiana Gagne. Gagne medaled in all six of her events winning two silver and four bronze. Her results were:


200 Meter Freestyle (2:09.83)

800 Meter Freestyle (9:47.86)


50 Meter Freestyle (27.60)

200 Meter Backstroke (2:31.43)

400 Meter Freestyle (4:44.89)

50 Meter Breaststroke (35.77)

Gagne wrote to the times upon her return from Halifax:

“I was really shocked to come home with medals because I was not originally ranked that high. Overall the swim team pulled in a lot of medals and I am so proud that I was able to contribute to the medal count. This is my second NAIG that I have attended, and I doubled my medal count from the last Games!”

She says it was really special to be one of the few representatives from Northwestern Ontario on the podium at the swimming event.

“I think the best part about making the podium in each of my races is being able to not only represent Ontario, but also Northwestern Ontario. My teammates were all from the Toronto area, so it felt especially nice to bring home some hardware to our region. I am forever thankful to have been given this opportunity to race again and I am so glad I got to represent my community! I feel so accomplished and proud to be Indigenous, and I am grateful to have done so well at such a large event.”

Other medalists from the Rainy River District included Caleb Leonard (Major) from Manitou Rapids and Darius Smith from Naicatchewenin First Nation who both won a bronze medal with Team Ontario 19U male soccer team.

Hailey Bombay from Rainy River First Nations also was a part of the 19U Female softball team who tied for third after the Bronze medal game was rained out in the historic rainfall that disrupted the final days of competition at NAIG 2023.

Logan McPherson–16U Female Golf

Dawnas Horton–19U Female Golf

Billy Broadbent–14U Male Canoe/Kayak

Brookelynn Marchuk–19U Female Volleyball

Ethan Cochrane–16U Male Volleyball

Calleigh Councillor–16U Female Volleyball

Ryder Brown–19U Male Beach Volleyball

Coaches Amy Wilson-Hands, Terry McMahon and Addyson Wilson also from the area were all coaches with Team Ontario Volleyball.

The next edition of the North American Indigenous Games will be held in Calgary in 2027.

Aviana Gagne shows off the hardware she brought home from the North American Indigenous Games in Halifax. Many local athletes and coaches attended the games. – Submitted photo