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Kahnawake hosts Canada East Festival 

The Canada East Youth Festival was held in Kahnawake for the first time ever. Courtesy Otiohkwanoron Montour

Local wrestling coach Peter Montour has travelled all over for the past 30 years to attend the Canada East Youth Festival. This year, the showcase event for young athletes was hosted right here in town.  

“For a second there I got a little emotional during the opening ceremony,” said Montour, the tournament’s convener. “Just looking around, I couldn’t believe it was happening here.” 

About 215 athletes from Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia competed in the May 10-12 tournament at the Kahnawake Sports Complex, where the arena was completely transformed.  

Singers from Kateri School marched in the athletes to traditional songs, an element Montour saw as an opportunity to share Kahnawake’s culture. Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) grand chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer and MCK chief Harry Rice were also present for the opening. 

“All the athletes, you know, that’s what really makes it worthwhile. Seeing the athletes smiles on their faces when they come marching in,” said Montour. 

Lia Bear, 14, of Kahnawake Survival School (KSS) took the silver in the girls’ Bantam division. She was the sole medalist of the four KSS athletes who competed, with Atiewatón:ni Homer, Rakehnhóktha Polson-Lahache, and Tehaténies Stacey also taking to the mat. Local wrestler Lennox Deer with the Kanien’kehá:ka Tehontatie:nas Mohawk Wrestling Club took the bronze in the boys’ Bantam division.  

“It was a very fun weekend. Me and the team enjoyed the tournament,” said Bear. 

Wrestling has brought a lot of discipline and allowed her to make new friends in and outside of her own team, she said. “What I enjoy most is it makes me feel good about myself. It builds my confidence. After a workout, I feel great, I feel replenished,” said Bear.  

In the stands cheering her on was her mother, Laina Stacey. “It was pretty amazing, I was very impressed by the whole setup,” she said, adding it’s one of the first major tournaments where she watched her daughter, who took up the sport only at the end of 2022, compete.   

“It was very nerve-racking because they’re so good. They’re very impressive,” she said of the athletes.  

Bear lost her first match in a best-out-of-three and couldn’t continue due to a knee injury but still secured the silver.  

“We’re very proud of her and happy she got to experience that,” said Stacey, adding this is Bear’s last year of eligibility in the tournament.  

Putting together the event was no small feat. Montour emphasized it couldn’t have happened with the help of a steady core of volunteers, including local Legion Mohawk Branch 219, the Quebec Olympic Wrestling Federation (FLOQ) and the Ontario Amateur Wrestling Officials Association (OAWOA).  

“They were just great all the way around. They were there for everything,” Montour said, adding it was an all-hands-on-deck operation from the setup of the arena all the way to end of the tournament.  

From the merch booth that nearly sold out all its t-shirt stock, the unique design on the medals, to the catered food and gift bags for athletes, the organization of the event got down to nearly every detail to host the festival.  

“The comments that we got were amazing,” said Montour.  


This article was originally published in print on May 17 in issue 33.20 of The Eastern Door.

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Nanor is a reporter and copy editor with The Eastern Door. She was previously the managing editor and creative director at The Link.

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Nanor is a reporter and copy editor with The Eastern Door. She was previously the managing editor and creative director at The Link.