When you grow up in the North, the future can at times seem limited. Sure, we have nature-packed childhoods and tons of opportunities to do great things, but the rest of Canada feels like a far away land; it’s no wonder, considering the closest major Southern city to Yellowknife is an 18-hour drive. From a kid’s point of view, it feels like you will be stuck in your community forever. There are a handful of people who change that for Northern youth.
When I was younger I decided I wanted to be on Team Canada. I was an avid soccer player and wasn’t as talented as other girls, but I decided I would make myself better. I woke up in the early hours of the morning and sprinted, chipped and shot until I would come home for lunch.
Jordin Tootoo is the reason I believed it was a dream I could even think about. He grew up in an even more remote place than me, him in Rankin Inlet and me in Yellowknife, and there he was, on my TV: a household name. Jordin Tootoo could do it; maybe I could do it.
When I was 16, around the same time my fitness and skills were undergoing visible improvements, the tendons in my right ankle were severely damaged leaving me with a black foot for a while, and a weak ankle for life. I could never use the same force to shoot or clear the ball and to this day it throbs after too much activity.
Today, while sitting outside in a meeting, we noticed the Grey Cup being hauled into Yellowknife City Hall for photo ops. We followed the crowd inside. Almost immediately, I spotted him: "Is that Jordin Tootoo?!" He is in Yellowknife to appear in the Aboriginal Day celebrations at City Hall on Saturday. Our photographer, Hannah, asked to take a couple pictures of him, and we took him outside to be in proper lighting. Eventually, we got to talking about my family store, about the place I attend university and if we talked about anything else, then I must have been blacked out from excitement.
Although I will never be on Team Canada for soccer, I now aspire to represent the North with my writing and passion for this place. I met Jordin Tootoo today (as well as breathed really hard and shook his hand at least ten times) and I hope to someday represent the North just as well as Tootoo does. I still look up to him. The fact is, he is genuine and he is from the North and for many, many people, he is the face of Canada’s North. I’m glad I hyperventilated on that face.