Sunday, February 15, 2009

They came, they watched, some conquered!

The celebration over the fiftieth anniversary of the All Native Basketball Tournament has come to an end, the games complete, the visitors for the most part heading back for home, some with their championships, others with their memories.

From all accounts edition number fifty of the ANBT was a great success, thanks to the long hours put in by the organizing committee and by the volunteers that pulled off the annual festival of basketball and community.

The Friday Daily News continued with its features on the tournament, taking a look at the impact that the gathering has as the various teams and their supporters gathered in the city this week and some of the background on its history that still resonates today.

ANBT fans just can't get enough
Tournament crowds find so many reasons to journey to Rupert
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Friday, February 13, 2009
Pages one and three

In the face of history the All-Native Basketball Tournament is a laughing.

For the organizers of the ANBT way back in 1947, it might not have been possible to see how the tournament would grow and succeed.

According to visiting and local tournament supporters, the ANBT has exceeded all expectations.
"I enjoy the energy of it," said Council of Haida nation President Guujaaw. "I like meeting a lot of people on the coast and the tournament never ceases to provide the entertainment that we come here for."

For the human ANBT encyclopedia known as Doug Sankey who has watched or participated as a coach in every tournament since the beginning, he takes in the games for the competitive aspect, sitting behind the north-end basket every year and taking watch of all who participate.

Sankey can tell you who played the year before and for what team.

He can describe the kinds of players that participate.

And he will comment on where the tournament is compared to where it has been.
"I thought the tournament was going to die four years ago," said Sankey while taking in some of the game action.

He reasoned that the tournament might have faded away because the organizing committee was unsure financially of whether it could continue.

But Sankey said the group led by Clarence Martin and Peter Haugan has overall done a good job not only keeping the tournament going but expanding awareness of the games.

It's a sentiment shared by Frank Parnell. The former player for the Port Ed intermediate team and Prince Rupert Chiefs, Parnell said that while the players have changed - "more above the rim" - the atmosphere and organization has to be commended.

"The way this tournament is run is amazing. The organizers seem to know what has to be done," said Parnell.

The game of basketball has taken on a theme of cultural importance in the region that is not known in the rest of rural Canada, where normally Hockey is king. Parnell describes the curious passion as one of cross-cultural ties with American soldiers.

Back in the Second World War, when U.S. soldiers were stationed in and around Prince Rupert they brought with them the then-unknown American game invented by Canadian James Naismith.

"And it just sort of caught on," said Parnell.

Parnell himself grew up in a basketball family and watched as his uncles would practice and battle on the driveways, in the rain, any chance they had.

By-and-large, the tournament has grown beyond its original concept of a timely event for North Coast First Nations to get together and play some ball.

It has also become inclusive and the outside, non-aboriginal community might feel more comfortable with the games.

"The outside community has certainly come to realize the importance of the event and especially now with the (economic) down times," said Guujaaw

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