By Kelly Anne Smith
North Bay—A North Bay youth is going to remember the summer of 2017 as golden. Shkaabewis Tabobondung won three gold medals for Aboriginal Team Ontario at the North American Indigenous Games.
Tabobondung finished first in the 200m, 1,000m and the 3,000m Kayak singles event in the 16 and under category.
Tabobandung is a Wasauksing First Nation member and a St. Joseph-Scollard Hall student who plays hockey and soccer as well. And he is an excellent Grass Dancer.
Tabobandung has been paddling competitively since he was nine-years-old. His proud mother, Laura Lee Liberty, accompanied Shkaabewis to Welland for his races. She says she is an advocate for activity in the lives of youth having grown up in a time without electronic devices.
Liberty says competing in the NAIG games fine-tuned Shkaabewis’s paddling skills and love for paddling.
“He was accepted into the games based on his competitive history,” explained Liberty. “He was ranked as one of the top eight paddlers in Ontario. So he has had the benefits of training and being competitive. He’s pretty proud of himself.”
Tabobondung had praise for coach Davis Evans with the North Bay Canoe Club.
Liberty admired the paddling culture instilled in the NWT athletes and the kids on the coast.
“The kids wait until June to paddle when the Mackenzie River breaks up. And they make their own paddles. There are four main families in BC. And they do races in dugout canoes every weekend with the community in Washington,” stated Liberty in admiration. “If someone in the family paddles, everybody paddles. Paddling is a way of life for them.”
Team #88 was the theme for NAIG 2017, highlighting the positive power of sport for Indigenous communities. It represents the 88th call to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, promoting athletic development.
More than 1,300 volunteers worked for 5,000 athletes from across Canada and the United States to receive equitable participation, helping them strive for excellence. Athletes were aged 14-19 competing in 14 sports. Ontario athletes had a strong showing with 137 medals. The province finished third in the medal standings.
Shkaabewis Tabobondung is humble despite the fame. He is now featured on the provincial ministry website as winning top honours and his photo accompanied CBC’s The National story on the games which included an interview with Tabobondung.
After winning three golds at NAIG 2017 and mentoring at Youth Camp Niigan Mosewak for four days, Tabobondung heads to Costa Rica to volunteer in the Duke of Edinburough program which works to elevate living and educational conditions for children.