Two young athletes from Duncan were among six from across Vancouver Island to receive the 2020 Premier’s Award for Indigenous Youth Excellence in Sport from the Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity and Recreation Council this spring.
Kristine Williams, a 2020 year-old graduate of Duncan Christian School, and Ellashani George, a current student at Cowichan Secondary School, received the honours earlier this year. The Premier’s Awards recognize Indigenous athletes, under 25 years of age, who are competing in performance sport, and demonstrating a commitment to their education, culture, and promoting healthy and active lifestyles.
“I definitely felt very honoured to get it,” said Williams. “I worked my butt off during the pandemic since we didn’t get to play any sports.”
A standout in volleyball and basketball during her time at Duncan Christian, Williams missed out on the track and field season in her Grade 12 year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and shared the Senior Athlete of the Year Award with classmate Morgan Nederlof. A straight-A student, she was named valedictorian for the Class of 2020, the first ever First Nations valedictorian at DCS.
A member of Cowichan Tribes, Williams says her culture is very important to her. Recently, she has been involved in her community’s response to the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at Residential Schools.
Now studying criminology at Vancouver Island University, Williams spent her first year doing classes online because of the pandemic, but is looking forward to being on campus this year, and may try out for the Mariners basketball team.
George said she was “confused at first” when she heard she was receiving the Premier’s Award.
“I’ve never gotten awards like that before,” she explained. “I felt like I achieved something. It meant a lot.”
A two-sport athlete in war canoe and soccer, George only started paddling in 2019 after a friend invited her out, but she poured herself into the sport, quitting ballet so she could spend more time on the water.
“That was really hard,” she said. “I’d been dancing for about 10 years, but it wasn’t fun anymore.”
George made the provincial canoe team for the North American Indigenous Games after winning two provincial silver medals, and is a member of the Rainbow Canoe Club and Salish Warriors, who train in Cowichan Bay.
A soccer player throughout her life, George has played minor soccer in Vancouver and the Cowichan Valley, high school soccer for the Cowichan Thunderbirds, and for her family team, the Turnour Island (T.I.) Braves.
Both sports will figure in her future.
“I want to try out for a university [soccer] team, for sure,” she said. “I think I’ll always be paddling. “
George is of Oneida Nation of the Thames and Kwakwaka’wakw heritage. She grew up in Vancouver and moved to Duncan when she was nine. She says her First Nations background is something she always things about.
“If I’m doing a school project, I always look at what can I do that relates to who I am,” she explained.