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Kugluktuk lacrosse impacting the west

A man born and raised in Kugluktuk is now teaching youth across the Western Arctic the fundamentals of lacrosse.

Kyle Aviak is seen at a lacrosse camp in Fort Providence, NWT last week. photo courtesy of Carson Roche

Kyle Aviak just spent two full days teaching students in Fort Providence, NWT the ins and outs of the game that took him from Kugluktuk to competitions across North America.

“The lacrosse camp went well, we had a lot of participants from the school. It seemed to catch on with the students, they seemed like they enjoyed (playing) a new sport,” said Aviak.

Aviak has spent the past five years living in Yellowknife and teaching kids from the NWT about Lacrosse in partnership with the territory's Aboriginal Sport Circle (ASC). Aviak himself learned to play the game in Nunavut and he travelled to various competitions in both Canada and the United States, including playing for Team Nunavut.

“I first learned to play lacrosse back in Kugluktuk which is where I'm originally from and then not long after I was playing there, I was lucky enough to travel all over Canada and then the United States playing at different levels,” said Aviak.

Aviak now works at an NWT mine that sees him work two weeks on and two weeks off. During the two weeks off he partners with the Aboriginal Sport Circle in order to fit the schedules of schools who want to bring him into their communities to help teach their students.

Aviak's skill with a lacrosse stick made him one of the feature characters in the recently released movie “The Grizzlies” which revolves around his hometown team the Kugluktuk Grizzlies. The Grizzlies premiered earlier this year at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and was shown more recently at a film festival in Yellowknife as well. The film took a hard look at some of the major issues afflicting Northern Indigenous communities such as colonialism, suicide, substance abuse and how sports can help youth to overcome these challenges.

“Talking about the past, it’s like I can feel what they feel, but I can’t,” Emerald MacDonald, an actor in the film told Nunavut News in a previous interview.  “I can’t imagine to have that news in school about a kid’s suicide. It’s really sad.”

Now in his adult life Aviak has taken to coaching in order to help others take the first step to having an illustrious career in the sport, similar to what he was able to experience.

“I decided to pass on some of my experiences, and pass on some of the opportunities that I've had to other athletes as well,” said Aviak.