Thunder Bay to Host ISWO’s Annual Ontario Native Basketball Invitational

The Ontario Native Basketball Invitational

ndigenous youth, communities, and the City of Thunder Bay see annual basketball tournament as an opportunity to create dialogue and engagement, through sport.

Indigenous youth, communities, and the City of Thunder Bay see annual basketball tournament as an opportunity to create dialogue and engagement, through sport

THUNDER BAY – SPORTS – Indigenous Sport & Wellness Ontario (ISWO) announced Monday, that its fifth edition of the extremely popular and well-attended, Ontario Native Basketball Invitational (ONBI) will take place April 18-21 in Thunder Bay, Ontario, over the Easter long weekend.

The Ontario Native Basketball Invitational brings together teams from across Ontario to compete in a friendly, yet competitive invitational style tournament. Indigenous youth of high school age (between the ages of 14-18) travel with their teams and family members to compete and have fun. With a number of cultural and leadership activities offered throughout the entire tournament, ONBI builds confidence, creates friendships and strengthens communities, while creating opportunities for Indigenous youth to participate in competitive sport with their peers. The ONBI is also an identifier for participation in the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG). ISWO staff and Team Ontario volunteers and coaches will be on-hand to scout talent and identify athletes to play for Team Ontario, officially representing the province at the 2020 NAIG, set to take place in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The most recent ONBI took place in Sault Ste. Marie, with more than 250 youth in attendance, who were able to develop their skills, compete and have fun, and make new friends in a culturally safe and relevant environment. ISWO intentionally selected Thunder Bay to host the tournament, despite challenges facing Indigenous people and communities within and around Thunder Bay.

“Sport provides opportunities for health and healing. It is a vehicle of hope for our youth. As the Indigenous sport body for Ontario, ISWO carefully considered Thunder Bay to host this year’s ONBI tournament. It’s a way for us to support Indigenous youth and partner with the City of Thunder Bay to come together in a positive way,” says Marc Laliberte, President of ISWO.

“Many efforts aimed at reconciliation have been made by the City of Thunder Bay and other named parties in the Seven Youth Inquest to create a safe and welcoming atmosphere in the city. The ONBI has been established as a well-run event that brings Indigenous youth together for healthy competition and a chance to be recognized and scouted for future opportunities, notably the North American Indigenous Games. We look forward to welcoming participants for an exciting visit where they will have a chance to showcase their skills.”

ISWO leadership and event organizers stress that the number one priority for the 2019 ONBI is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all participants. ISWO is working in partnership with the City of Thunder Bay, to develop a comprehensive safety plan which will include support from local Elders, Friendship Centres and nearby communities. ISWO already has a well-established presence in Thunder Bay and is currently working with both Westgate Collegiate & Vocational Institute and Dennis Franklin Cromarty (DFC) High School. DFC is a high school for Indigenous students, administered by the Northern Nishnawbe Education Council, serving approximately 20 communities around Northwestern Ontario.

To position 2019 ONBI as a potential opportunity for dialogue and engagement between Indigenous youth and communities, and the City of Thunder Bay, ISWO has created a campaign entitled ‘Bigger than Basketball’ (supported by the hashtag #BiggerThanBasketball). The campaign will feature the ‘voice of Indigenous youth’ through testimonials and interviews, speaking about the impact of sport programming, challenges they face, potential solutions and next steps, and what it means to be Indigenous – in their own words. A range of programming, including opportunities to work with the City of Thunder Bay and its newly developed Youth Inclusion Program, will be a significant part of the weekend tournament.

The tournament is open to high school age youth (born between 2001 and 2004) of Indigenous ancestry. Registration is open until March 31 for Ontario teams and April 4 for out of province teams. Priority will be given to Ontario teams and participants. For more information and to register, individuals are encouraged to visit the official ISWO website at

Indigenous Sport & Wellness Ontario (ISWO) Quick Facts:

  • ISWO is the designated Provincial/Territorial Aboriginal Sport Body for the province of Ontario, primarily funded through the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport.
  • ISWO serves all Indigenous Peoples and communities across the province of Ontario, including First Nations, Inuit and Métis, living on and off-reserve, in rural and urban settings, encompassing more than 350,000 Indigenous Peoples.
  • ISWO promotes and creates opportunities for participation in sport and cultural activities that promote wellness and positive lifestyles for Indigenous Peoples across Ontario.
  • ISWO provides opportunities for physical literacy and competitive sport skill development and training by creating sport development pathways, designed specifically for Indigenous youth.
  • ISWO is recognized by the Aboriginal Sport Circle and the North American Indigenous Games Council and is the designated sport body for the development, selection and management of Team Ontario, which participates in the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships (NAHC) and North American Indigenous Games (NAIG).

ISWO honours the traditional lands and homelands of all Indigenous Peoples and communities across the province of Ontario, including First Nations, Inuit and Métis living both on and off reserve, in rural and urban communities.

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