Indigenous relay uses historical survival methods to team build

A participant in the Indigenous relay challenge starts a fire at the last leg of the race on September 20, 2018. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

Jayda Noyes, Daily Herald

Ninety students at Saskatchewan Polytechnic strived through the rain on Thursday hoping to come out on top for the Indigenous relay challenge.

Part of the fall equinox celebration, the relay isn’t just running—it incorporates traditional methods Indigenous northerners would use for survival.

Teams of 10 worked together to push through each leg: long distance running, paddling, cycling, running with a heavy pack, log cutting and fire starting.

Long distance runners line up to start the relay on September 20, 2018. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

The spitting rain didn’t scare away Christine Kriston, who was on a team of addictions counselling students. They showed their spirit by wearing neon orange wigs.

She executed the last leg of the challenge by starting a fire.

“I’m pretty confident. It’s a little wet out here, but we’ve shared some good ideas and I’m pretty optimistic,” she said before she took on the task.

Organizers didn’t stop the timer until the fire brought water in a coffee can to a rolling boil.

On the same team was Michelle Leggo, who was one of two members who canoed down the river.

“We kept hitting the current and we zigzagged apparently. I didn’t actually see the zigzag ’cause I was trying to focus on not falling out,” she said. “A couple of times we got a little wobbly.”

“(The event) totally brings us all together. I was a little hesitant, I was like ‘This isn’t gonna bring anybody together, this is just gonna make everybody mad,’ but actually this was pretty fun,” said Leggo.

Her team may have been one of the last to finish, but they broke out in good sportsmanship after.

The nine teams were split into two groups that started the relay at different times.

Craig Natomagan’s team landed number one in their group.

“Last year we came in fifth (overall), (so far) we’re in first this year,” he said, adding it’s fun to come together and laugh their way through the activities.

Members of the first heap’s winning team pose moments after their victory on September 20, 2018. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

Carrie McCloy, one of the organizers, was busy transporting students to the river in a bright blue jeep.

“It’s a great opportunity for them to get together, to show some team spirit and to participate in a fun activity,” she said.

The relay is part of Indigenous Students Welcome Week and supported by the Indigenous Student Success Strategy.

It’s open to all at Saskatchewan Polytechnic and has been running on and off since 2002.