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Sports ᒫᑎᐧᐋᐧᐃᓐ

Hundreds turn out for snowmobile races in Mistissini and Waswanipi

BY Ben Powless Apr 13, 2022

Mistissini and Waswanipi recently hosted end-of-season snowmobile races – the Mistissini Snowmobile Challenge March 11-13, and the Waswanipi Cross Country Challenge March 19-20. 

Waswanipi Leisure and Sports Coordinator Joy Blacksmith-Kitchen said her community’s event went off without a hitch. “The weather was right on. The snow melted last year, but this year everything went really well. No complaints so far. It was hectic, but we pulled it off.”

She credits her team of 32, including Leisure and Sports Department and community members, for organizing the competition in just two weeks. After starting the race three years ago and having to restrict the racers by region due to Covid last year Blacksmith-Kitchen said this year was their biggest event yet – with 169 registered racers. 

That allowed Kent Careen to come all the way from Labrador to win in the Sport category. Blacksmith-Kitchen estimated a few hundred more people came from across Eeyou Istchee just to watch the race. 

“It was great to see people there; we’ve been dealing with Covid and lots of restrictions were lifted. It was great to almost be normal,” she said, adding that people respected their bubbles and wore masks.

Next year, if conditions permit, she hopes to open the race to other regions, after receiving messages from people in British Columbia and New Hampshire who wanted to participate. Waswanipi, as a more southern community, hopes to hold next year’s event in February to ensure good conditions. 

A highlight for Blacksmith-Kitchen was seeing Silas Neeposh once again win the Professional category, while his sister Jewel Neeposh also repeated as champion in the Women’s category. 

Other Waswanipi winners included George Shecapio in both the Beginner’s and Youth Boys categories, and Jewel Neeposh in the Youth Girls’ category. Jayden Shecapio-Blacksmith took home the prize for Cross Country Sport, fresh after winning the Men’s Professional category in Ouje-Bougoumou. 

In Mistissini, Elijah Matoush won the Professional Cross Country championship, along with a $10,000 prize. Andrew Neeposh won both the Cross-Country Champion award and the Sport category. Destiny Coon Come won the Women’s Cross-Country award, while Morgan Mianscum won the Beginner/Amateur category. 

Among the youth, Destiny Coon-Come won the Junior Girls 16-17 prize, while Kenyon Coon was the winner in Junior Boys 16-17. Nian Coonishish won for Junior Girls 13-15, while Jarome P. Jolly won for Junior Boys 13-15. In the 200cc category, Kenny Dixon grabbed first place, while Shadrack Shecapio was first in the 120cc category. 

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Ben Powless is a Kanien'kehá:ka and Anishnabek writer and photographer, currently living in Ottawa. He has a degree in Human Rights, Indigenous and Environmental Studies from Carleton University.