Steve Tooshkenig Wants Indigenous Youth To Take The Lead In Sport, And Share Their Gifts
He hopes that other Indigenous youth will find their place in sport, and gain the valuable benefits of participating in sport, whether it be golf, or something else.
“I believe the value is seen when youth play and compete, they learn about team work, they learn about leadership and making others better,” said Tooshkenig about the value of sport for Indigenous youth.
“Youth and a youthful approach must be part of the vision for sports, if it stays the same it becomes stagnate, that’s why I believe youth should be coached by mentors and should get the opportunity to lead others. Youth have vision, many times they don’t get that opportunity to lead but change is all apart of tremendous growth and when you have youth leading other youth it opens so many doors for them.”
Tooshkenig, who has served on the Walpole Island Band Council, and as part of the Indigenous Sports Body, along with many other organizations promoting sport and wellness for Indigenous people, also believes sport can serve an important role in reconciliation.
“Sports is a tremendous outlet for reconciliation to occur, as stated previously there needs to be a shift in how our youth lead. Reconciliation begins when change occurs, when change occurs it means that organizations will begin to change their mindset on what reconciliation is,” he said.
“As an athlete my goal is to ensure we have an understanding of each other and we respect one another – this is reconciliation in its simplest form . We have tremendous role models who are paving the way like Waneek Horn Miller, Olympic Water Polo, Ted Nolan, NHL Coach of the Year, Reggie Leach, Riverton Rifle, and Carey Price, Montreal Canadians. We have a volleyball Coach in the National ranks, Amy Wilson Hands who coached my daughter for Team Ontario. The list continues to grow and we want to ensure they get recognized. Reconciliation is about sharing, it’s about involving and evolving into something much better. It’s all about serving others and being respectful in the process.”
As a member of local governance in Walpole Island, Tooshkenig hopes Indigenous athletes return to the First Nation community to serve as the leaders of the future, to continue this reconciliation and growth.
“I have always promoted athletics and sports. I would like our youth to lead by example and share the great gifts they were given with other teammates and coaches. That they build friendships that will last a lifetime, and they continue to build on their success. I hope they return to the community sharing their experiences and help others achieve theirs.”
For Tooshkenig, his gift was golf. Starting at Baldoon Golf Course, and playing on many tours, Tooshkenig is one of the areas most accomplished golfers, and was inducted into the Wallaceburg Sports Hall of Fame in 2018 as a builder.
The opportunity to be on the golf course is not only a place of enjoyment for Tooshkenig, it’s the spot he acknowledges his family, his heritage, and Mother Earth.
“We are all given gifts, it’s important to share these gifts with others. I’m a proud member of Bkejwanong Territory. I acknowledge my Pottawatomi families along with my Delaware families. When I walk the fairways or the rough of any golf course, I acknowledge the beauty of Mother Earth. I acknowledge the water, sometimes the sand, the trees, the beautiful grass and the many animals that live there. The game of golf has been my medicine, it has provided many lessons and has allowed me to create many friendships all across North America.”
As a builder himself, Tooshkenig wants more for the future of Indigenous sports, and for Indigenous athletes. For that to occur, he believes it is time to listen to those future generations, and allow their vision to become reality.
“Our children and grandchildren are watching and waiting for their time to lead, it’s about their vision now.”