By: Damon Hunter, 17
Mary Anne Mooring of the Chi Key Wis Arena in Naotkamegwanning First Nation, formerly known as Whitefish Bay, spent the months of March and April organizing and undertaking the construction of a coined “pop-up curling rink”.
The idea, she claims, originated from the repeated requests for a curling rink from Naotkamegwanning First Nation Band councillors; namely, Kirby Paul, Rene White, and the former Warren White.
Warren White previously served as a Naotkamegwanning councillor and chief. He served as grand chief of the entire Treaty #3 area. His activity in indigenous politics ranged from 2003-2018.
He remembers the previous existence of a curling rink in Naotkamegwanning. He describes it being long in structure with a concrete base. The structure utilized naturally frozen ice with water pumped from the nearby Dogpaw Lake.
Mary Anne recalls several older residents reminiscing about the days of the curling rink. She says they’ve remarked on its prevalent sporting role within the township of Emo during the early 1970s.
Mary Anne says the Naotkamegwanning Band, alongside the reservation’s Chief & Council, has long requested the implementation of a curling rink within the community. Though without sufficient funds to purchase proper curling equipment, she says it’s been a struggle.
“They all wanted curling but I just had to keep going back to them and saying, “I can’t do it. If we don’t have rocks we can’t do it… I looked into buying rocks. They’re [approximately] $30,000 so that wasn’t an option for a community to try it. So I wanted to see if we could borrow some, and then see what the response was.”
Denise Lysak, a friend of Mary Anne’s and contact of the Keewatin Curling Club, initially pitched the idea of lending Naotkamegwanning curling equipment directly to KCC Board Director Mike Szajewski alongside other club members, including Joshua Szajewski.
“As a club, we see this as a great opportunity to engage a community that does not have regular access to curling facilities with our awesome sport. Playing a role in the expansion of the game is definitely important to us and we are thrilled that we could play a role in bringing curling to a First Nation community in our area”, says Joshua.
Following Denise Lysak’s pitch, Szajewski then provided the Chi Key Wis arena with curling equipment.
With the Chi Key Wis Arena’s curling games hosted between April 11-May 2, the Keewatin Curling Club’s equipment has undergone it’s appropriate sporting use in a total tally of 36 games between a total of 13 amateur teams.
With each game’s passing, people began to discontinue their sporting efforts. Though, the point of the games was solely to test. Therefore, no loss – only an increased perspective.
Mary Anne Mooring says she would like to try again next season.