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First Nations and the Vancouver Winter Olympics

Updated on December 3, 2014

Four Host First Nations Olympic Welcome

Honor Without Excuse

The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic and, afterward, the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games were prepared and held on traditional First Nation territories in British Columbia, Canada. These territories have belonged to the Aboriginals peoples of the Lil'wat, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. They were honored to welcome Olympic and Paralympic events to places like Whistler Mountain and to share their histories with all people.

After the high speed death of Russian Georgia's first time Olympian luger stopped the heart of the 2010 Winter Olympics and cast a pall over the celebration of athletes and nations. Bloggers began to criticize the events, the athletes, and even the singers at the Opening Ceremonies, but it is better to find what is good and brave after a tragedy than to look for what is petty in order to make oneself a Name in the media. First Nations spirit dashes this pettiness.

The Opening Ceremonies and indeed the entire Winter Olympics this year honors the departed athlete from Georgia, Nodar Kumaritashvili. This is a sad loss, but with such high speed, slick events and streamlined, smaller luge sleds; many young lights will be snuffed out in a flash in extreme sports. I suggest we honor him be remembering that he was doing what he loved to do - how many people live past retirement, having hated their whole working careers? In that respect, Nador achieved already at age 21, what many do not achieve in 70 years.

Some pettiness broadcast by bloggers and news media included too much criticism of lip synching, K.D. Lang, the venue, and equipment snafus. However, one of the better parts was the opening performed by the First Nations of the Vancouver Area. Not many people reported on this uplifting spectacle.

2010 Winter Olympics Aboriginal Pavilion

The First Nation Hosts

Mr. Tewanee Joseph is the Executive Director of the organization that presented the first Nations welcome at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics at BC Palace Stadium in Vancouver: Four Host First Nations, a nonprofit society.

I listened with earphones as I watched the half-hour presentation by the four Vancouver-area First Nations in this event, wishing to capture every detail of the languages. The first two sounded similar and the last two sounded different from each other and from the first two. How different brothers and sisters can speak when separated by centuries of travel and distance!

All of these four nations are related at some level of genetics, language and culture, but in the larger universe, all humans are related. A DNA difference of 2% - maybe less - makes a different being. As the Snohomish of Washington State not too far to the south tell in their legend Pushing Up the Sky, all people, animals, and birds worked together to raise the sky to a comfortable level by pushing it in unison with poles made from indigenous fir trees. Indeed, all these workers are people to the Native American and First Nation.

Four Host First Nations prepared Opening Ceremony Presentations for both the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Winter Games and consider them to be the scenes of "the biggest potlach the world has ever seen."

Suddenly, there has been a new recognition for Aboriginal Peoples from coast to coast in Canada. In return, they were eager to share who they are to the whole world. They remain eager to interact with other peoples now and in the future. Almost 1,000 different First Nations groups inhabit Canada, with a larger number for first peoples in USA, Mexico, and the Americas in the Western Hemisphere, not to forget mentioning the islands of the Pacific Ocean and the West Indies areas.

As Mr. Joseph says for his peoples, "This is our time."

People of the Land: Legends of the Four Host First Nations
People of the Land: Legends of the Four Host First Nations

For the first time, sacred teachings are collected in an anthology of stories shared by respected storytellers of each nation. These legends range from creation stories to naming stories. Four maps accompany the 100 photographs.


Pavilion Grand Opening - You'll be Surpised!

Complaints Were Minor

I do not care about a bit of lipsynching that was not "synched", or a single girder that did not fall into place around the indoor Olympic Cauldrin - the other three assembled and the flame still lit.

There was nothing incorrect about K.D. Lang singing Canadian Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah- what better song after a tragedy and a pulling together to go on in the honor of absent friends?

And the venue - should Vancouver have constructed another white elephant like the beautiful Bejing Summer Olympics Stadium that lay fallow and fell into disrepair six months after the Summer Olympics?

The spectators, staff, and athletes at the 2010 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremonies experienced wonder under the eyes of the First Nations that welcomed them, inside out of the rain, and seated early in the stadium seats to enjoy the show - another first.

KD Lang barefoot, singing Hallelujah (another venue)

Inukshuk in the Wilderness

Inukshuk on a plateau at the northern extremity of Baffin Island in Nunavut, Canada. Public domain: March 31,1929.
Inukshuk on a plateau at the northern extremity of Baffin Island in Nunavut, Canada. Public domain: March 31,1929.

First Cultures

Canada recognizes three groups of Aboriginal Peoples: First Nations, Inuit, and Metis.

The Four Host First Nations created an Aboriginal Fashion Showcase Premier Designers’ Show for 5 days at the Aboriginal Artisan Village and Business Showcase on the college campus downtown of the Vancouver Community College, It began on the evening after the 2010 Opening Ceremonies. Three Aboriginal designers were honored and showcased at the event, including Angela DeMontigny, Dorothy Grant, and Pam Baker. Other featured First Nation designers include Kim Picard, Nadine Spence, Louie Gong, Tammy Beauvais, and Tracy Toulouse.

You see that not all Aboriginals of the Western Hemisphere have "strange" sounding names or are called Betty Walks in the Clouds or He Who Sings With the Robin, or something similar. Some First Nations peoples intermarried with Europeans and accepted Western names with their marriages. In the 2010 Opening Ceremonies, I was surprised and happy to see the Metis Nation presented as an official nation of people. With a heritage of mixed Aboriginal and European ancestry from the 17th Century forward, Metis had been looked down upon in previous decades in Canada and more so in the USA. Name-calling and harsher treatments were involved. Today, they are their own nation of people.

Inuit peoples farther away were also highlighted in the Opening Ceremonies as well. February 20 is Inuit Day, held in 2010 at the 2010 Aboriginal Pavilion at Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza, Vancouver. To dovetail with the Olympics Inukshuk logo, the theme of the Inuit Day presentation was The People Behind the Inukshuk. The Inuit, by the way, donated $90,000 to Haiti Earthquake relief in early 2010. They are also no longer called "Eskimos."

The Inukshuk is a traditional Inuit stone marker used in the wilderness for at least 3,000 years. It is a signpost to guide travelers, help hunters, provide a danger warning, and to indicate that food is available. Made of rough stones and slabs, it was chosen for the Olympics to symbolize hospitality, friendship, hope, and teamwork. This is what First Nations want.

Squamish Nation

2010 Winter Olympics
2010 Winter Olympics

Opening ceremonies and the most exciting winter Olympics ever with behind the scenes and up close and personal stories. 240 minutes, with behind-the-scenes footage. Bonus features, too.


Other Related Events

For some related Winter Olympic controversy in Ice Dance competition, see Aboriginal Dances In The Olympics - Vancouver 2010.

Comments and Thoughts

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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I've watched the 2010 Winter Olympics and was blown away by the First Nations,Metis,Inuits performance. Eventhough I'm from the Philippines (and have no Native American/Metis,etc.blood), I am truly pleased to see that the First Nations were honored as should be.

    • nightwork4 profile image


      8 years ago from ontario. canada

      this kind of occurrence is what canada needs. we should be proud that ALL canadians were involved in the olympics. makes a person very proud to be a canuck.

    • garcilazoand profile image


      9 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Nice hub. Canada's doing pretty good too, as of late..

    • C_Pinto profile image


      9 years ago from USA

      So interesting, thanks for writing about the Winter Olympics and giving us a unique sense of this nations

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Zsuzy Bee! - I hope your having a great time watching the Olypmics and enjoying Canadian achievements! Most impressive with gold medal firsts.

      Duchess OBlunt - Thanks for the good word. Many people are tired of the bad-mouthers looking to ride on thr coat-tails of others actions - they can't often write an article on their own, but they can write bad things about anyone easily.

      Ben - Four Host First Nations sought no publicity apparently, outside of Canada - at least we did not hear it here -- I think people need to know about it all. Hpefully I can find more infomration to share.

      ethel smith - If you can go to the first link under Ceremonies on Video and Online above, you might still be able to view it there.

    • ethel smith profile image

      Ethel Smith 

      9 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Missed the ceremony so thanks for the info

    • Ben Zoltak profile image

      Ben Zoltak 

      9 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Thank you Patty for bringing the First Nation aspect of the Olympics to light. I've only caught bits and pieces so far, and with my own Native American ancestry, this new information resonates with me.


    • profile image

      Duchess OBlunt 

      9 years ago

      Thank you Patty for taking a positive approach with your wonderful review. I'm tired of listening to the naysayers - even in my own family (for shame!). I thought we did a wonderful job, and I love what you have done here.

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      9 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Patty once again a great hub. The ceremonies were grand though I was really impressed. The bright side of being sick was that there was the ceremonies to look forward to.

      I think the whole light show was just fabulous, totally amazing.

      hope you're well


    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Thank you SO much for new comments! The virtual floor and Northern Lights were amazing, weren't they? I thought it was all goodm especially for an inside venue, and if the machinery was a little clunky here and there, so what?

      I think I am tired of some bloggers that are nitpicking the whole games already in order to draw attention to themselves and gain notoriety. Those that tear others down in order to promote themselves must ultimately fail, per my experience.

    • Faybe Bay profile image

      Faye Constantino 

      9 years ago from Florida

      Sorry I computer is slow, (IE froze up) the Opening ceremonies is in three parts in Best of Day on-demand if you have comcast.

    • Faybe Bay profile image

      Faye Constantino 

      9 years ago from Florida

      I have been so wrapped up in HP I missed the whole thing. If you have on demand the opening ceremonies is there, also Best of the Day, and individual events. Thank you for this Hub. I have always felt something should be done to bring us all together, we are all the same, just different parents, after all.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Patty Inglish, MS:

      Great hub! I especially enjoyed the history and background of the 'first nations'. thanx . :)


    • ecoggins profile image


      9 years ago from Corona, California

      I thought the First nations theme was wonderful. It was a great way to honor the unique flavors of Canadien society.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      9 years ago from Sunny Florida

      I thought the opening ceremony was terrific an saw most of it. I thought KD Lang was terrific. Very good hub.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      I did not see the whole event, but will likely buy the DVD. TV has too many commercials.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      9 years ago from London, UK

      I missed it too and kicking my backside ever since. I love seeing ceremonies like that especially when they involve people like that. Thank you for your hub and I will read all your previous hubs on that. I saw you wrote a number of that. Thank you.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      I looked all over and found a clip but the International Olympic Committee had it and one of KD Lang pulled from Youtube as a coyright violation within the hour. They'll probably watch the vid sites closely, because NBC sell the highlights DVD after the games and I'll bet there will be a full Opening/Closing Ceremonies DVD on sale but the IOC at that time.

      You can watch clips at nbc Olymic page if you download some new software, though.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Well I missed the ceremonies, but I am glad the First Nations were honoured. My kids would have loved to watch and learn. Maybe we will find it on youtube later.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Past involvement was minimal, like show and tell. To me as a Native American-European-American who's studied the topic 30 years, involvement was token, but perhaps still greater than that allowed by USA, yet.

      This 2010 milestone Olympics was the first in which aboriginals formed a business - Four Host First Nations - far in advance and specifically from which to prepare not only Opening Ceremonies, Closing Ceremionies, and the same for the Paralympics to come; but also two weeks full of other Aboriginal events, presentations, educational opportunities, a fashion show, culinary demonstrations, a large Pavilion, general Olympics events, and several others.

      Some of the First Nations peoples still feel slighted, but this is a huge show of recognition of equality. We can't do it all at once or please everyone.

    • Valerie F profile image

      Valerie F 

      9 years ago from Idaho Falls, ID

      Bear in mind that Vancouver was not the first to involve the First Nations in their Olympic opening ceremonies- but it definitely was the first to involve them on such a fantastic scale, turning the whole arena into what amounted to one gigantic dance arbor.

      Even with the few glitches, this was the best Olympic opening ceremony I had ever seen.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      It was a great moment to see and hear the First Nations and KD Lang. I liked O Canada as well, but Lang makes people cry.

    • Uninvited Writer profile image

      Susan Keeping 

      9 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

      It was a great opening ceremony. KD Lang's performance was definitely the best musical performance of the night.

      I am glad it focused so much on the First Nations.


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