The 2017 North American Indigenous Games — expected to be the largest sporting and cultural gathering of Indigenous peoples on the continent — has two ill-matched corporate sponsors: mining giant Goldcorp and oil company TransCanada.
Commencing Sunday in Toronto, Canada, the 8-day event will showcase 5000 Indigenous youth – aged 13 to 19 – from across Canada and the United States compete in 14 sports including track and field, basketball, baseball, boxing, golf, lacrosse, swimming and soccer, among others.
But while the games facilitate the opportunity for cultural exchange, between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, its corporate sponsors include two companies that Indigenous people across the Americas have been protesting against for the past few years.
The companies are both listed on the games’ official website as Platinum Sponsors.
TransCanada is the parent company of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, the highly controversial fourth phase of the Keystone projects. This leg of the project would reportedly involve the installation of a 1,179-mile long crude oil pipeline running from Canada – through Montana and South Dakota – to Nebraska.
Former U.S. President Barack Obama had halted the project’s expansion in 2015, but it was given the go-ahead in January when President Donald Trump came into power.
Indigenous leaders from both the United States and Canada have expressed displeasure with and repeatedly protested against the project, even signing a declaration in May to assert their opposition to it.
The 16-page edict highlighted the groups’ treaty rights and opposition to this new expansion in the existing Keystone pipeline network.
The other sponsor in question, Goldcorp, is a mining giant that has elicited criticism for alleged reports of human rights violations and environmental destruction across Latin America.
In a 2016 report compiled by the Toronto-based Justice and Corporate Accountability Project, titled “The Canada Brand: Violence and Canadian Mining Companies in Latin America,” it was documented that the mining giants’ practices have resulted in the loss of many lives — mainly Indigenous people.
The report detailed that the companies were responsible for 44 deaths — 30 of which are described as clearly “targeted” — across 11 countries. The document also informed of 403 injuries — 363 of which happened during protests and other confrontations — across 13 different countries, between the years 2000 and 2015.
In early 2016, over 180 organizations from across Latin America were signatories to a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau demanding the government address violations by mining companies.
These figures point to the Games, which is a unique platform to showcase the talents of Indigenous youth, having seemingly partnered with two marquee sponsors with ties to projects that have conversely affected the indigenous community.