Treaty 6 Grand Chief Wilton (Willie) Littlechild can add another milestone to his long list of accomplishments.
Last week Littlechild was announced as one of the 2018 members of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.
His life in sports started at an early age when he lived with his grandparents. He was educated with a strong cultural knowledge but was also given formal education through residential schools from 1951 to 1964.
The Canadian Sports Hall of Fame announcement pointed out that he has been heavily involved in sports for years. “A pioneering role model, organizer and advocate for Indigenous sport in Canada, Wilton Littlechild has worked tirelessly over five decades to create new opportunities for Indigenous athletes.”
Sports has always been a part of his life. “As an athlete and as a builder,” said Littlechild.
The sports environment has always been a positive experience and Littlechild feels it’s something that every kid should be able to experience, something he advocates for Indigenous youths. Along with hockey and baseball, Littlechild was a big swimmer. “After I broke my leg really bad, as part of my therapy I did swimming.”
The Grand Chief took his love of sports and earned a bachelors and masters in physical education and used that to coach kids in swimming and hockey.
During the time he was dealing with his broken leg, Littlechild was invited to a special management school for hockey. It was here the seeds of his career as a lawyer were planted.
All but two of those invited to this management school were lawyers, said Littlechild, who decided to make the step into that profession while his leg healed. It was a six year healing process.
Sports and law have taken Littlchild all over the world. “It’s been a really amazing blessing for me.”
This central Alberta area has been his home, except for one year he spent time in the West Indies. Throughout that time the idea of a sporting event to celebrate a real indigenous games competition with communities around the world was taking shape.
Littlechild was in Sweden about 38 years ago where he spoke on the goal of starting up the World Indigenous Games. That idea would take Littlechild and other organizers through some growing pains, he explained, as the infrastructure and organization for these games were not quite ready.
To get things rolling, Littlechild helped create the North American Indigenous Games in 1990. This was all intended to motivate youths and to give them a love of sports.
Then the first edition of the World Indigenous Games was held in Brazil in 2015 with the second being right here in Alberta at Maskwacis, Enoch and Alexis Nations in 2017.
For Littlechild, seeing these nations working together last year as host brought a feeling of gratitude.
“It was really a gratifying moment for me,” he said.
In Brazil the Indigenous athletes were housed in traditional huts, said Littlechild, and in Alberta they were housed in teepees. It was a special time of openness and of welcoming.
Littlechild was also honoured to run the torch and represent Canada and First Nations at the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Games. Littlechild was also gifted the torch.
What’s next for Littlechild? Working on bringing the Olympics to Calgary in 2026. “I sat on the committee to look at the feasibility.”
The advisory panel that Littlechild sat on looked at if Calgary could host the games and be ready for the big event. That panel felt it was indeed feasible and the City of Calgary passed a motion to continue looking into hosting.
But for Littlechild the real passion comes in bringing a high level of Indigenous participation to the games. Something he is excited to be working on.
As for his own sports, despite breaking a hip recently, he’s been competing in the senior games and winning medals at the same time.