Practice makes perfect

14-year-old teaches youngsters Northern games

Kassina Ryder | TSIIGEHTCHIC/ARCTIC RED RIVER
March 23, 2015

Darius Andre knows the importance of passing on tradition.

That’s why the 14-year-old student at Chief Paul Niditchie School has been teaching younger children how to perform Northern games.

Whenever he has free time after school, Andre gathers students together to teach everything from the one-foot high kick to the stick pull – games that have been taught to youngsters for generations.

Through practice, Andre has become a skillful competitor and earned medals at the Arctic Winter Games two years in a row. Chief Paul Niditchie School principal Darcy Douglas asked him to pass his knowledge to younger students.

“I’m pretty good at the Northern games, so he gets me to teach the little kids,” Andre said. “He gives me a job to teach them.”

Students in grades one to nine spend afternoons learning from Andre, who makes sure lessons are performed safely and correctly.

“I tell them to stretch first and I just tell them to focus on what they’re doing,” he said. “I tell them to take their time.”

He says the one-foot high kick is an especially popular game.

“It’s fun,” Andre said. “Everybody has fun doing it.”

Douglas said he decided to ask Andre to teach the games not only because of his athletic ability, but because he’s an encouraging instructor.

“He’s got an outgoing personality. He’s athletic and a natural leader,” Douglas said.

Andre can always be counted on to welcome new participants. Douglas said the student’s welcoming nature extends to the greater community as well – he always greets newcomers to town with a warm hello.

“He’s always the first to invite you to participate in events,” Douglas said. “That’s a sign of leadership.”

Andre is also teaching students to play hand games, which he said will help ensure youth are ready to join teams for future hand games tournaments.

“Everybody in the school likes hand games,” he said. “We’re just trying to teach the young ones so when we’re done playing hand games, they can carry on.”

Andre said thinking back to when he learned traditional games inspired him to want to teach others.

Northern games competitors from Inuvik visited Tsiigehtchic a few years ago and held workshops, in which Andre took part. It was this experience that taught him the basics of each game.

“I remember I liked doing it, when other people showed me how to do it, I was happy,” he said. “So when I teach the kids, I just remember when I was getting taught and it was fun.”

He said that’s the most rewarding part of his new role.

“I like seeing the kids having fun doing it,” he said.

In addition to his work teaching Northern games, Andre also spends time getting wood for his family and for school activities.

He said he and a friend travel by Ski-Doo 26 km from the community to gather the wood, which they first cut before loading onto their sleds.

The pair then bring the wood back to Tsiigehtchic where they split it and make piles for family households.

Andre said now that spring is on its way, he’s looking forward to spending even more time on the land geese hunting.

“It’s fun, we get to go on the land and enjoy our time,” he said. “We always enjoy our time out there.”

His competitive nature isn’t restricted to games, Andre said. He and other hunters often try to outdo each other when it comes to catching the most birds.

“Sometimes we have competitions for whoever shoots the most geese,” he said.