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Single arrow changed teen Aboriginal archer’s path

A $5 bill is at the heart of Emma Atwell's great promise in archery. Hantsport's Atwell will be one of a handful of Nova Scotians competing in the North American Indigenous Games, beginning Sunday in Toronto.
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Archer Emma Atwell of Glooscap First Nation: 'I'm not able to do any sports that involve running. So archery is a sport I can still do.' (AMANDA FRANCIS)

A $5 bill is at the heart of Emma Atwell's great promise in archery.

Hantsport's Atwell will be one of a handful of Nova Scotians competing in the North American Indigenous Games beginning Sunday in Toronto.

The Games bring together thousands of athletes in 14 sports. There is a cultural festival that coincides with the athletic competition.

The 14-year-old Atwell, from Glooscap First Nation, came to her sport perhaps in an unusual fashion.

It all started about one year ago. A member of her community conducted an introduction-to-archery program.

"He put a $5 bill on the target," she said. "He said the first person to hit it got to keep it. I was the first one to hit it in 12 years."

By the end of last summer, she had competed at the Nova Scotia Mi'kmaw Summer Games held at Membertou in Cape Breton. She was then offered a chance to compete for a spot on the Nova Scotia team headed to Toronto.

Archery and lacrosse, in particular, were offered in her community to combine traditional sports with an effort to get young people active and engaged.

"They were trying to get more people involved with the community and our background," Atwell said. "So they were trying to think of ways to get people involved with hobbies. Archery was one of them."

Winning five bucks didn't dampen her interest, but there was more to it than that. She stayed with it.

"I went to the Summer Games last summer and I won gold. I'm still continuing to do small competitions around where I live."

Atwell shoots a traditional bow, which limits her competition prospects. Most people her age compete in compound bow.

She practises with a local team once a month. Atwell also has a friend in the Glooscap community who gives her a training companion.

The numbers change in Toronto. She expects to have dozens of opponents in her division, maybe as many as 50, chasing the podium.

"It's my first time," she said. "It's just so I can say I did it and have a cool learning experience."

There will be more than 5,000 athletes and 2,000 volunteers in Toronto. All 13 provinces and territories in Canada will be represented, along with 13 United States regions. The age range for competitors is 13 to 19.

Atwell, entering Grade 9 at Horton High School in the fall, hopes to carry on in archery in the coming years.

"I think that would be cool. I want to keep going with it. I used to play a lot of other sports, but I blew my knee out a few years ago and I'm not able to do any sports that involve running. So archery is a sport I can still do."

Competition in the North American Indigenous Games is in 3D archery, which is a branch of field archery. Athletes target three-dimensional animal-shaped targets.



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