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Tulita wins handgames tournament
Event brings participants from across the territory

Kassina Ryder
Northern News Services
Friday, February 12, 2016

The largest handgames tournament ever held at Chief Albert Wright School took place in Tulita the weekend of Feb. 5.

NNSL photo/graphic

Aurora Desjarlias won first place in the traditional dress competition during the handgames tournament in Tulita the weekend of Feb. 5. - photo courtesy of Jodee Lennie

"It was probably one of the most well attended events in the history of the school," said principal Lorraine Kuer. "At times I think there must have been close to 400 people in the building."

The 15-and-under boy's handgames tournament brought in more than 144 players from communities throughout the territory. Teams came from as far away as Yellowknife and Tsiigehtchic, Kuer said.

Each team brought along its own fanbase with parents and spectators filling the gym to watch each game.

"I was just amazed at the amount of community members who drove in to spend the weekend in Tulita and to cheer on the kids," Kuer said.

A fire feeding ceremony kicked off the tournament at about 4 p.m. on Feb. 5 and the final game ended at about 10 p.m. on Feb. 7.

Jessie Campbell with the Sahtu Divisional Education Council organized the event, along with help from school and community volunteers, Kuer said.

"She was instrumental in the success. She is quite a lady and ran the show with a lot of grace and just made it happen," she said. "All kudos for Jessie for pulling that off and to the troop of volunteers that came in to help."

Tulita Dene Band Council Chief Frank Andrew stayed to help referee throughout the weekend, she added.

"He sat through every single game," Kuer said. "He was the referee for 90 per cent of the games."

Wayne Bernard played in many of those games. Though he's only in Grade 8, he's already been playing for half of his life.

"I started off when I was very young, six-years old," he said.

Bernard said he learned from his grandfather while camping in the bush.

His experience paid off when he captained one of Tulita's teams in the tournament. Bernard's team did well, but the tournament was won by another Tulita team. He said watching players from his community earn first place was the best part of the weekend.

Grade 7 student Erik Wolters said he agreed. Wolters' family recently moved to Tulita from Ottawa and Wolters started attending Chief Albert Wright School in August. He's been playing handgames ever since a friend showed him the basics.

"She showed me a little bit about how to play," he said. "I got interested and I started playing."

In the end, Tulita won first place, Fort Good Hope came in second and Deline placed third, Kuer said.

"We're very pleased to say a Tulita team came in first and worked very, very hard for that," she said. "It was not an easy win by any means."

A successful handgames player must keep a few important things in mind, Bernard said.

"Try your best and never get mad while you're playing," he said. "Have good sportsmanship."

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