UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A study exploring Indigenous women athlete’s experiences with physical activity and sport Reyes, Alyssa


This research project sought to explore how Indigenous women athletes experience physical activity and sport through an Indigenous feminisms lens. Five of the ninety-four Calls to Action that have come out of the Final Report of The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2015) are directly related to sport and physical activity. This means that sport and physical activity are positioned as important to processes of reconciliation in Canada. Indigenous participation and achievement in sport and physical activity have largely been ignored in Canadian history and excluded from historical narrative as a result of colonialism and cultural erasure (Hall, 2013). Indigenous women, in particular, lie at an intersection that results in distinctly different experiences due to the impacts of gendered colonialism on Indigenous communities. This research study employed methods guided by community-based participatory research, in partnership with the Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity and Recreation Circle (ISPARC), conducting virtual focus groups with Indigenous women athletes (17-19 years) who reside in rural or remote areas and are part of Team BC for the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG). This study explored the following research questions: What are the experiences of young Indigenous women engaged in high performance mainstream sport generally, and Indigenous sport more specifically? What do young Indigenous women want/need in terms of their current and future experiences in sport and physical activity? Using thematic analysis, the research study found that Indigenous girls and women’s experiences are still impacted by colonial structures of racism, classism and sexism. However, these oppressive systems can be dismantled through decolonial practices of relationality, intergenerational support, and increasing Indigenous representation of Indigenous girls and women at all levels of physical activity and sport. This research study also found that physical activity can act as a site of resurgence and holistic wellbeing. This study is significant as it helps fill a gap in the existing scholarly literature on Indigenous women’s experiences in physical activity and sport. Moreover, this study also has possible applied significance as it has the potential to inform culturally-relevant sport and recreation programming for Indigenous girls and women.

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