APTN sports series has local origins

Born and raised in Duncan and a graduate of Cowichan Secondary School, Steve Sxwithul’txw is embarking on a journey to document the athletic endeavours and achievements of First Nations youth across North America.

Sxwithul’txw’s new APTN television series, Warrior Games, which premieres this Saturday, will take viewers on a 13-episode trip across the continent, exploring traditional and contemporary sports across Canada and the U.S.

More than just the host, Sxwithul’txw gets involved and experiences the sports he is covering, often leading to humorous results.

“I go in as the gregarious, clumsy host and I work with youth and have fun doing it,” he said.

The series includes a stop in the Cowichan Valley to cover warrior canoe racing with Ladysmith’s Rainbow Canoe Club out of Ladysmith, which will air on Sept. 13.

Sxwithul’txw pitched the series at the Banff World Television Festival a few years ago, and although he wasn’t successful the first time, he was snapped up the second time, and given a $1-million budget to film 13 episodes.

Sxwithul’txw previously hosted the series Down2Earth on APTN earlier this year, and has worked in the past as a reporter and producer for CTV, and before that as a police officer in Ladysmith and Chemainus.

The Warrior Games season opener will feature the World Series of Stickball hosted by the Choctaw band in Mississippi. Related to the more familiar sport of lacrosse, Choctaw stickball can get extremely vicious.

“It’s a game with very few rules, Sxwithul’txw said. “There are ambulances on the sidelines. Everyone plays with two sticks and no pads.”

Other episodes will see Sxwithul’txw visit the Arctic Winter Games in the Yukon and the Métis Games in Sault Ste. Marie, learn hoop dancing in Chilliwack from the sixth-ranked hoop dancer in the world, and go snowboarding in Whistler with the First Nations snowboard team, where he ended up in hospital with broken ribs and no regrets.

“It’s part of what I do,” he said. “I do my best to excel in each situation; I don’t hold back.”

Warrior Games will also look into longball, described as a combination of baseball and dodgeball, a long-lost sport discovered in a museum in Ontario and reintroduced to the community.

Sxwithul’txw is already prepared to embark on a second season if the first round proves successful. Viewers are encouraged to engage with the show on its website (warriorgames.ca), and on Facebook and Twitter.The series will run Saturdays on APTN at 3:30 p.m. Pacific.

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