Sparking inspiration in youth is what Tammy Watson has done as a profession for many years. Now she is igniting an even deeper fire, by turning Indigenous lives onto the physical and mental health benefits of sport.
When the North American Indigenous Games unfurl from July 15-23 in the Halifax area (Mi’kmaq territory), the northeast region of B.C. will have athletes, coaches and other officials in attendance. One of them will be Watson, a Quesnel educator who has recently joined ISPARC – the The Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity & Recreation Council – as their sport and physical activity coordinator for almost a quarter of the provincial landmass.
“I started with ISPARC April 3rd. Before that, I spent 14 years with the Quesnel School District as an Indigenous Education Worker,” Watson said. “My favourite parts of my job were applying for and receiving grants through ISPARC. I loved being able to provide physical activity for my students through purchasing snowshoes, movement breaks, healthy snacks and aerobics classes. When a position for the northeast region’s coordinator became available, I decided to apply. And now I have my dream job. Everyday I get to help people of all ages be physically active.”
Three Quesnel athletes will be representing B.C. at the Indigenous games (NAIG). The youngest is Elise Jonasson competing in 14U female swimming, while Gavin Currie and Corina McClure play on the 19U softball provincial team. Watson is excited and proud to support hometown competitors on such a prominent international stage.
“Being chosen for NAIG is an amazing experience. Added excitement is the fact it only happens every four years,” Watson said. “I can’t wait to cheer on Gavin, Elise and Corina. They should be very proud of themselves. Elise was one of my students when I worked for the school district. We quickly connected over our love of culture and physical activity. When I received the message that Elise was chosen for NAIG, I had a blanket she gifted me on my lap, the first drum she made in my entrance way, and a basket that held gifts from her family on my counter – full circle moment.”
Watson is Cree from Manning, Alberta with ancestral roots to Selkirk County, Manitoba. Her family raised her with an awareness of the land and a person’s connection to it, and she has tried, alongside her husband, to pass that on to their two boys.
In addition to her profession in Quesnel schools, she also spent 15 years as president of the local motocross track, and vice-president of the BC Motocross Association.
Her own physical interests include mountain biking, skiing, paddleboarding, hiking, camping, snowshoeing or riding around the backroads on her adventure touring motorcycle.
“Tammy is often found supporting youth in their development of sport,” said a statement from ISPARC. “From encouraging youth to join her in a ski jumping class, to taking kids mountain biking, Tammy loves to help develop confidence, independence and pride, because we all have the ability to be strong, confident, independent people.”