University of Alberta students build shed to foster sport on Kawape’no First Nation

University of Alberta students have repurposed an old shed on the Kapawe’no First Nation in northern Alberta and filled it with sports equipment for children in the community. 

The students from the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport and Recreation teamed up with the Indigenous Sports Council of Alberta (ISCA) and the Alberta Kinesiology Association as part of a project to identify barriers children face when participating in recreational sports and activities.

The ISCA conducted a series of surveys within Kapawe’no First Nation, which is located about 30 kilometres northwest of High Prairie and about 370 kilometres from Edmonton. 

The students were then challenged to develop a strategy to address the barriers using the data collected. The winning team designed a project dubbed SHED, or a Spiritual Holistic Exercise Den. 

A traditional Indigenous teepee.
U of A students who participated in the project with the Kapawe’no community made sure the community led the project. (Submitted by Taylor McPherson)

Taylor McPherson, who is from Miawpukek First Nation in Newoundland and Labrador, was one of the lead students in the project. 

“Honestly, it makes me really happy working with the community to get this program up and running and making sure that we had all of the supplies we needed for them,” McPherson said. 

McPherson said the project helped her connect with her culture.

“It shows that culture can be brought into sporting recreation, and that’s just one way of doing it,” McPherson said.

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The students filled the shed with equipment for activities such as archery and fishing supplies, as well as materials for traditional Indigenous crafts such as beading. 

“There’s also just mainstream sports like basketball, soccer and lacrosse,” student Andre Bonfiglio Compean told CBC Edmonton’s Radio Active

“The whole goal of the program is to help the kids develop in different aspects of life spiritually, emotionally, physically and mentally.”

Working with the community

Tracy Whatmore is the practicum advisor in the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport and Recreation at the U of A. She noticed there was a need for creative ways for students to meet their practicum requirements. 

“I thought this would be a great opportunity to partner together and put that data to use and also give the students this new, innovative, flexible way of getting that work integrated learning experience,” she said. 

Five students sitting in front of an open wooden shed. There is traditional Indigenous art on the shed doors.
Kinesiology students at the University of Alberta collaborated with Indigenous mentors to repurpose a community shed for sports and recreation equipment. Left to right, André Bonfigilo Compean, Taylor McPherson, Surhan Memon, Cameron Mah and Samantha Jassman. (Submitted by Surhan Memon)

McPherson said the team made sure the community led the way on the project.

“A lot of programs won’t succeed if they don’t have the community’s voices,” she said. 

Compean said their team visited the community recently and they set up a station to teach children more traditional games. 

“The kids got competitive and they all had a lot of fun,” he said. “It was a great experience for us and it was an honour to come back.”

Whatmore said the project isn’t overly expensive and that the team will try to keep the momentum going by installing more facilities in rural communities.

The total cost of the project was $7,500 and included the structure and the equipment. 

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