It was an impressive weekend for the Onake Paddling Club at the Masters Indigenous Games last weekend in Ottawa. Six Kahnawa’kehró:non paddlers took part in the competition on Saturday for the first time ever, taking home seven golds, three silvers, and one bronze.
It involved a mix of single and couples races spanning between one and three-KM distances along the waters of the Rideau River by Mooney’s Bay Beach, just by the Rideau Canal.
Paddler Rotshennonni Two-Axe took home four gold medals, the most among the six paddlers. That included a win in the single six-KM race, two in the couples three-KM race, as well as one in a couples one-KM race.
“Everyone who went came back with a medal,” he said. “In preparation for the Masters Indigenous Games back starting in July we were on the water around two, maybe three times a day. We were doing it almost six days a week.”
It wasn’t a surprise for his coach.
“It was expected that he would do well, because he’s put in the work,” said Lanhotonkwas Goodleaf, the team’s head coach for this tournament. He got the chance to race too, taking home three gold medals – including one for a singles six-KM race – and one bronze.
“It was a more relaxed atmosphere than it would be at a bigger race,” he said. “We had the chance to race with people from other places on our team. There were people from Ontario, and there were a couple of paddlers from Manitoba.”
Maris Jacobs was also among the paddlers from Onake who competed this weekend, and took home one gold medal in a couples three-KM race.
“We had a really strong 3,000m right from the start, so we were happy with our results,” said Jacobs, who took home the medal alongside her partner Konwanakeren Diabo. They were both part of the same coaching team for the U19 sprint canoe and kayak team at the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) in Halifax, Nova Scotia, this July, which Two-Axe also took part in.
“The course was very nice, the competition was friendly among everybody. It was pretty windy so we had a bit of struggle sometimes on our turns but the race overall was really good,” she said.
Karonhiio Curotte was the sole Kahnawa’kehró:non archer that came out to the games. He finished fifth and last place in the competition, but said he was just grateful for the chance to represent his nation.
“I’ve been doing archery since I was 10 years old and I’m 51 now. I still love it and I go and compete whenever I get a chance,” he said. He participated in the same competition in 2018, when he took home a silver medal.
He was particularly impressed with the grounds he got to play on. Archers had 40 different targets to choose from at the archery range located in Spencerville, Ontario, he said, about an hour drive south from Ottawa.
“If they say that’s where it’s going to be again I’m definitely going to go to all my archers and say: ‘Look, you gotta go try this venue, you’ll love it,’” Curotte said.
“I keep spreading the word, I keep trying to tell people ‘You gotta try this tournament, you gotta go compete, master the game,’” Curotte said. “This is for the pride of Kahnawake, for the pride of the nation, for the pride of Eastern Door and the North.”
Two Kahnawa’kehró:non volleyball players also took part in the games. Sisters Mandie Diabo-Cook and Kaniehtanoron Kaycee Diabo played with the Eagles, which also included players from Akwesasne and Kanesatake. The team may have not taken home any medals, but Kaniehtanoron said she’s grateful for the chance she got to compete.
“We had fun playing, and for some of us who played in CEGEP it was just a great opportunity to play at a high level of volleyball again,” she said, adding she’s hoping to return to the Masters Indigenous Games come 2025.