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Honouring Jason Peters - Builder and Advocate for NB Indigenous Sport





Jason Peters was a true champion of indigenous sports. He was born on Christmas day, 1972 and was keenly interested in sports during his childhood. He got his start in coaching on St. John’s east side with minor basketball. He left an enduring legacy through his coaching, community leadership, and advocacy, and he is one of the six this year to be inducted to the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame on June 1st.

 

Today we’re honouring his legacy by taking a look at his book “Aboriginal Sport Heroes: Atlantic Canada”. As one of the instrumental leaders who revived the New Brunswick Indian (now Indigenous) Summer Games, Jason was steadfastly focused on indigenous participation in sport. He saw sport “as the vehicle to a better world, a better life.” Clearly, Jason wanted that better life for indigenous New Brunswickers.

 


His book tells briefly of his own origins. He was the grandson of Chief Joseph Peters (1921-1996) of Glooscap First Nation in Nova Scotia. Joe Peters and his siblings were well-known competitors in the sports of logrolling, axe throwing, log chopping, and burling, a curling variant played with ice jugs. As a child, Jason was obsessed with sports and acutely aware of the lack of indigenous sports role-models.

 

He explains that Indigenous sport has deep roots in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The Mi’kmaq, for example, have a long hockey history, and Peters cites strong evidence that it was the Mi’kmaq who created the game. They were among the first to create hockey sticks, carving them from a Nova Scotian variety of hornbeam tree, a sturdy hardwood.

 

Despite all our Indigenous sports origins, many of New Brunswick’s Indigenous sports heroes have gone uncelebrated. This, along with his concern for children’s physical health, is why Peters wrote his book. The Eel River Bar Hawks, for example, were “A men’s hockey team that played from 1976 to 1988… The Hawks formed a dynasty in the Maritime Senior Indian Hockey League claiming 11 Maritime titles over a 12-year span.” Of these, the only individual to gain notoriety was Everett Sanipass, who would become a player on the Chicago Blackhawks, and on the Canadian National Junior Hockey team during the infamous 1987 game in Piestany, Czechoslovakia.

 

Jason’s book is a paper hall of fame for outstanding Atlantic Canadian athletes, five in total:

 

Sara Lynne Knockwood, Mi’kmaq: Tae Kwon Do world champion

Allison Brooks, Wolastoqiyik: Football quarterback

Josh Sacobie, Wolastoqiyik: Football quarterback

Josh Hepditch, Inuit: Hockey defenceman

George “Tex” Marshall: Mi’kmaq, Chairperson of the Aboriginal Sport Circle

 

They are well-told biographies of determined, hard-working people toughing it out through adversity. It was Peters’s hope that they would inspire indigenous children like him, who would have been inspired by indigenous role models.

 

Jason Peters’s life was dedicated wholly to the development of sport in New Brunswick, and – almost as though he was working on a deadline – he passed away on Christmas day, his 50th birthday.   

 

As an organization we share the aspiration that Indigenous New Brunswickers should know about indigenous sports heroes. We are, thanks to Mr. Peters, more aware than ever that the Aboriginal sports history of New Brunswick and Atlantic Canada is deeper than we ever knew before. Peters will be inducted into the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame on June 1st, 2024. We invite all to join us in celebrating the life and accomplishments of this Important New Brunswicker at our induction gala in Tantramar on that day.

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