Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Arts




Clark, A. Kim


This thesis explores the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships (NAHC), an annual hockey tournament held in Canada where Indigenous youth compete in provincial/territorial teams. Research focused especially on the insights that coaches, organizers, and other tournament officials can provide into this tournament that aims to both highlight the skills of Indigenous players and also to provide cultural activities and enhance pride. Drawing on interviews at the NAHC at the 2019 tournament in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada, this thesis aims to understand the impact the tournament has on those involved, as well as outside influences that constrain and impact the event. The major topics presented are history of the championships, experiences with coaching, and the role Indigenous identity plays. The influence of settler colonialism connects the different topics studied, and continues to impact Indigenous sport, in this case Indigenous hockey and its coaches, from systemic racism to skepticism about identity.

Summary for Lay Audience

This thesis approaches the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships primarily through the lens of coaches alongside other team and NAHC officials. This is a productive lens for research because many coaches at the championships have participated since the inaugural event in 2002 and they have insights given that coaches take on multiple roles at the championships from managing their athletes on and off the ice to administrative complexities that may seem outside the sport entirely. It is from this perspective that I have been able to delve into the history of the championships, the experiences and complexities that underly coaching for such an event, and identity which is influenced via outside entities in very explicit ways, for example through the Indian Act.

Chapter two delves into the history of the tournament first by examining policies beginning in the 1970s into the 1990s. This chapter uses a chronological approach to contextualize the tournament from difficulties and triumphs the championships have seen over its almost twenty-year history along with historical factors that led to the NAHC’s formation. The third chapter focuses on coaching credentialing, recruitment, and coaching in practice through their approach to mentorship off the ice and coaching on it. Credentialing of coaches, which is required to become a head coach or assistant coach at the NAHC, is not a simple task, as many regions are isolated and coaches must travel considerable distances to receive training. Coaches also approach coaching in a variety of ways, however mentoring was something especially pertinent to many coach participants, going beyond focusing on the athlete on the ice and bringing into focus the growth of the athlete as a person. The fourth and final core chapter focuses on identity. First, it looks at the importance of Indigenous identity and the identification process at the championships, highlighting the impact of how outsiders define Indigeneity, such as the Canadian state defining First Nations through the Indian Act. Finally, the chapter also looks at the implications of settlers ‘becoming’ Indigenous through race shifting and the impact that has on Indigenous sport.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.