The late Inuvialuit Elder Edward Lennie’s induction into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame as a builder of traditional Arctic sports is complete.
The honour, announced in May, was bestowed on Lennie’s son, Hans, in his memory at a ceremony hosted by Ron MacLean and Tara Slone on Thursday evening.
Lennie, long known as the father of the Northern Games, was “a remarkable community leader and a great Elder,” said MacLean, “who worked tirelessly during his lifetime to promote the traditional Arctic sports.”
He died in 2020 at the age of 86.
Having been taken to residential school in Aklavik for three years as a child, Lennie grew up to become a leader in cultural preservation.
He coached athletes in events like the kneel jump and two-foot high kick at the inaugural Arctic Winter Games in Yellowknife in 1970, having successfully argued for those sports’ inclusion alongside southern events.
In 2003, Lennie received a National Aboriginal Achievement Award – now known as an Indspire Award – for his work mentoring athletes in traditional sports.
On Thursday, he was inducted into Canada’s hall of fame alongside athletes Hailey Wickenheiser, Adam van Koeverden, Dwayne de Rosario, John Tavares and Tim McIsaac, and fellow builders Brian Williams – for sportscasting – and Canadian Olympic Committee president Tricia Smith.
Inducted in the trailblazer category were the Chatham Coloured All-Stars, a men’s baseball team comprised of Black players, and women’s hockey team the Preston Rivulettes.
Accepting the induction on his late father’s behalf, Hans Lennie told the ceremony’s audience the Northern Games remained “a celebration for coming together, to reconnect and enjoy friendly competition.”
He said: “One of the biggest messages my father had, he left with the athletes: you’re not allowed to say I can’t. You have to at least try.”
Hans described his father teaching Arctic sports on the family’s kitchen floor in Inuvik.
“Our culture was so important to my dad,” he said.
“It’s an honour to say that my father’s dream has come true and the games … are now recognized nationally.”