Over the past two decades, Eugene Arcand has received dozens of awards for his role in promoting sports, recreation and cultural opportunities for First Nations youth in Saskatchewan.
During the same period, he has never forgotten the profound role that sports and recreation can have on a person's development.
"My survival in my life is all because of sports," said Arcand. "It kept me away from other lifestyles. It helped me become the leader that I am today and it's opened so many doors, not only for myself but for every athlete that's ever thrown a fastball or picked up a hockey stick. It's a wonderful way to develop positive lifestyles and positive attitudes."
Arcand, along with the late Ovide McIntyre and the Mistawasis Blue Jays women's softball team, are the latest inductees into the Saskatchewan Indian Sports Hall of Fame. The inductees were honored at a formal induction ceremony, Jan. 18 at the Quality Inn in Saskatoon.
More than 250 people attended the event, including Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations chief Perry Bellegarde, former NHLer Fred Sasakamoose, FSIN vice chief Morley Watson and Robert Nault, minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.
Nault congratulated all the inductees and commended First Nations leaders for their efforts to provide recreational opportunities to a new generation of Saskatchewan athletes.
"We all know that sports play a very important role for young people," Nault said. "And because it does, I'm very honored and excited to see that the FSIN has taken the opportunity to recognize those athletes and those people that have worked very hard to make sure that young people have an opportunity in this province. It is truly an honor to be a part of this event."
The Mistawasis Blue Jays (Team Category)
Inducted in the team category, the Mistawasis Blue Jays were one of the most successful all-Native women's softball teams in the province.
The team was formed in 1979 and consisted of young players from the Mistawasis First Nation and other reserves in the Shellbrook area, about 60 km. west of Prince Albert.
Within months of forming the team, the Blue Jays had earned a reputation as one of the most talented and competitive female teams in the Prince Alberta area. In its second year of existence, the team competed at its first international tournament in Oklahoma City. The following year, the Blue Jays traveled to Nanaimo, B.C., and surprised the competition with a third place finish at the 1981 Canadian championships.
In 1982, the team returned to the national championships in Victoria, B.C. and finished in second place behind the Six Nations Reserve from southern Ontario.
In 1983, the Blue Jays competed in their third national championship tournament and earned another second-place finish, thus solidifying their reputation as one of the top women's softball teams in the country.
Blue Jays player Bev Daniels has fond memories of the team. But despite the Blue Jays many accomplishments on the playing field, the most valuable rewards for Daniels were the memories and experiences.
"The best thing was the family and the friendships that we made," said Daniels, who joined the team as a teenager. "It kept us out of trouble. We pretty much knew we were going to play ball every weekend so we didn't have time to get mixed up in other things."
Daniels' spot on the team provided her with an opportunity to travel throughout Canada and the United States. She also traveled extensively in Saskatchewan and learned many valuable lessons about her province, about herself and about the value of teamwork and cooperation.
"It was such a great experience," she said. "It did a lot for us and it took us a lot of places that we wouldn't have seen otherwise. It's a nice feeling to be recognized for what we accomplished. We were all doing it for fun at the time but to be remembered like this now is a great honor."
Norma Pechawis, the Blue Jays' first baseman, said competing against oter teams taughther a lot about sportsmanship and determination.
"We learned to work together with teammates and through that, we formed a real lasting bond that will always be there," said Pechawis. "It's a good feeling to win but we were also taught how to lose as well. We learned how to be good losers as well as good winners."
Through their experiences, Daniels and Pechawis are convinced that sports can have a profound impact on a person's social, mental and physical development.
And they both offer similar advice to young people who are thinking about getting involved in amateur sports.
"Get involved now because time is short," Pechawis said emphatically. "Get going. Work together and get a team going in anything. Don't wait until next year because time goes so fast and the body wears down. Do it now."
Ovide George McIntyre (Coach Category)
In the coach category, Ovide George McIntyre left an indelible mark on his family, friends, youth, teammates and peers in Northern Saskatchewan.
McIntyre was born in Ile-a-la-Crosse in 1951 and raised on the English River reserve near Dipper Lake, about 300 km northwest of Prince Albert. He was raised in a traditional Dene setting and developed a reputation in his community as a hard-working, fun-loving youth who excelled at athletics and accepted any challenge with unparalleled enthusiasm.
"I think one of his strongest assets was that he always, always encouraged," said Isidore Campbell, a peer, friend and cousin to McIntyre. "He always looked for the best in people and he always had a positive attitude."
During his childhood, McIntyre attended a residential school in Beauval and then attended high school at St. Thomas College in North Battleford.
He later returned to Dipper Lake and became involved in a variety of recreational initiatives for First Nations youth.
As an athlete, he played AAA midget hockey at St. Thomas College before returning to his home in northern Saskatchewan. When he returned to northern Sasktchewan, he became known as a dedicated coach and a tireless promoter of amateur hockey and baseball.
Locally, he was instrumental in helping to construct an artificial ice arena in Patuanak. Upon completion, the Patuanak arena was named after McIntyre in recognition of his tireless commitment and dedication to the project.
During the same period, he led the Patuanak Pats hockey team to numerous league championships. He also coached amateur hockey and baseball teams in the Saskatchewan Indian Winter Games and the Saskatchewan Indian Summer games.
McIntyre died on Jan. 1, 1982, leaving a rich sporting legacy in the Patuanak-Dipper Lake area.
"He was a very accomplished athlete, especially in hockey," recalled Campbell, who grew up with McIntyre and played on the same hockey team. "He was never afraid to try something new."
Campbell also remembers McIntyre as a dedicated family man with a wonderful sense of humor.
"He always kept the dressing room in stitches," he said. "He was a great imitator and he always looked for the positive. That was one of his greatest strengths. All along, he believed more in the assist than in the goal. That's the type of player he was and that's the type of person he was. He was always encouraging the other guy.
"If he was alive today, I think he would have told the kids the same thing he told his teammates back then . . . 'Don't quit. Don't give up.' He lived that philosophy to the fullest."
In honoring this year's inductees, FSIN chief Perry Bellegarde expressed remorse that McIntyre couldn't be present at the Jan. 18 ceremony.
"We're doing something very special here," said Bellegarde. "We're taking the time to honor some of our own for their contributions to First Nations culture sport and recreation . . . and that's one of the teachings of our Elders: To take the time to honor our special people. It's a little sad that Ovide isn't with us tonight in physical form. We should do this more often and honor our special people while they ae here with us in physical form."
Eugene Arcand (Builders Category)
In the builders category, Eugene Arcand's efforts in promoting First Nations sports and recreation have earned him numerous awards on the local, provincial, national and international levels.
Arcand was born in 1952 and raised on the Muskeg Lake First Nation.
He was educated at the St. Michael residential school in Lebret and later completed his high school at the North Battleford Comprehensive High School in North Battleford. After graduation, he worked as an educational liaison for the North Battleford School District from 1972 to 1978.
In 1978, Arcand joined the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations as an executive assistant in the department of economic development.
In the 1990s, he served as fifth vice chief of the FSIN and was a board member with the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority.
Among his many sporting achievements, Arcand was the co-founder and co-ordinator of the Prince Albert Aboriginal Hockey Tournament, an event that will celebrate its 16th anniversary this year.
In 1990, he organized the Prince Albert Youth conference and in 1994, he served as chairman of the Saskatchewan Indian Sports Hall of Fame committee, which was responsible for the opening of the Saskatchewan Indian Sport Hall of Fame.
In 1993, Arcand served as chairman of North American Indigenous Games in Prince Albert. He also served as chairman of Team Saskatchewan at the 1995 and 1997 North American Indigenous Games. In 1997, he received the Saskatchewan Tourism ambassador award and the following year he received the Saskatchewan Parks and Recreation Association award of merit for his promotion of positive lifestyles among the province's youth.
Arcand was also named FSIN vice chief responsible for the FSIN's 50th anniversary celebrations and, in 1996, he successfully secured the Indian National Finals Rodeo, an event that had never previously been held outside the United States.
Today, Arcand continues to be a