Described as a "backbone" of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside community and for women coming off reserves, an Indigenous women's basketball team is featuring a limited edition basketball as part of a new fundraising campaign.
As an integral part of many Indigenous communities, basketball has served as a way for people of all generations to gather and connect with each other.
All My Relations Indigenous Women's (AMR) basketball team was founded over 19 years ago in Vancouver and team captain Joleen Mitton says the limited edition basketball is a representation of more than just the love of the game—although the team really loves to play basketball.
"Through basketball, we have learned to practice how we want to play, and in our lives, we are the change we want to see in our communities," she explains. "This ball and its design represents that, it’s our journey and our story.
"We love this game, and this is our Game Ball!”
In partnership with advertising agency The Local Collective, AMR has launched a fundraising campaign that represents "a rich and often overlooked history of basketball in Indigenous communities across Canada."
For women who are coming off reserves or who live in the DTES, the team offers a safe and healthy outlet in the community. The 30 Indigenous women in the AMR community come from various nations and backgrounds and the team consists of twelve women ranging in age from 17 to 40 years. Inspired by their stories and the love of the game, the AMR Game Ball was born.
The story being the AMR Game Ball
While the AMR Game ball is symbolic of the team and its players, it is also a celebration and appreciation of Indigenous culture across the country and across Turtle Island.
Taking its inspiration from nature, the sprouting tree/plant/flower is meant to signify three things:
- The deep roots that Indigenous culture has in the “soil” of this land. This relationship to the Earth and her history acts as an important reminder that we are all connected.
- The leaves and branches that extend outward are meant to signify the support we must continue to provide to each other. To always be a part of each other’s journey and to aid when needed. As these branches expand into leaves, they reach out toward the sky, symbolizing the cycle of growth.
- The beautiful flower represents all the strength and beauty of Indigenous and Inuit communities, and the power in their perspectives.
AMR notes that the importance of representation in sports cannot be understated, "and the development of those spaces requires not only passion and dedication but also access to funding."
While the COVID-19 pandemic had an impact on tournament fundraising, the "drive, determination, and dedication to community" continued to push the team to find new ways to rally support.
"We believe the more spaces that are created, nurtured and funded for sport, especially for underrepresented communities, the more we all have to gain from it," says Kaitlin Doherty, Founder & Managing Director, The Local Collective.
“Community is so vital right now. We love what All My Relations stands for and how they build and lift up their communities."
Proceeds from the sale of AMR Game Balls go directly to supporting the team as they head to the coveted All Native Tournament this April in Prince Rupert, which is located on the traditional territory of the Ts’msyen. Additionally, funding will go to supporting the AMR Physical Literacy Program, developing programming and clinics, and continuing their advocacy work for representation in sport.