Rick Brant teho:ka
Rick has extensive experience in Indigenous sport development. He is a founding member of the Aboriginal Sport Circle, Canada’s national body for Indigenous sport and recreation, and is one of the primary architects of Canada’s Indigenous sport system. He has extensive involvement with the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG), leading the delivery of three separate games, most recently serving as the CEO of the Cowichan 2008 NAIG. Rick has also been responsible for numerous national and provincial initiatives that have influenced public policy and shaped the way sport and recreation programs are delivered in Indigenous communities across Canada.
As a member of Canada’s National Track and Field Team, Rick won national championships at 800 metres, 4×400 metre relay, and team Cross Country. In 1987, Rick received the National Tom Longboat Award as the most outstanding Indigenous athlete in Canada.
Rick is Mohawk, a member of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in Ontario. He currently lives in the Cowichan Valley with his wife and two children.
Elder and Senior Advisor
Alex Nelson is a member of the Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw tribes of the Kwakwala- speaking people. Alex currently resides in Victoria with his wife Nella, daughter Tasha, and grandsons Gigalis and Komanagila. Alex has a vast history in the field of sports, recreation and physical activities. He believes strongly in the correlation between active lifestyles and leadership and tribal pride.
One of Alex’s greatest achievements was hosting the 1997 North American Indigenous Games in Victoria. He was the Chairperson of the NAIG Council 1995, Blaine Minnesota; 2002, Winnipeg; and 2008 NAIG, Cowichan. He was also co-founder and Executive Director of Aboriginal Sports and Recreation Association of BC for twenty years. Alex continues to guide I·SPARC as a respected Elder and Senior Advisor.
A master’s soccer player himself, Alex has also coached community youth, men’s and women’s soccer for 42 years. Alex recently led Team BC’s 16U male soccer team to a gold medal victory at the Toronto 2017 North American Indigenous Games. In recognition of his contributions to sport on Vancouver Island, Alex was inducted into the Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame in 2017 in the Builder category.
Lara Mussell Savage
Lara Mussell Savage was raised both in Chilliwack and in the urban setting of Vancouver. Proud of her Sqwá First Nation (Stó:lō/Pilalt) ancestry and a dedicated athlete, Lara focuses her passion for sport on Indigenous sport and youth. She graduated as a Wesbrook Scholar from UBC with BKin in Sport Management and completed her MBA at SFU.
In 2005, Lara was awarded Canada’s National Tom Longboat Award for Female Indigenous Athlete of the Year and has competed in 4 World Championships in the sport of Ultimate, winning 2 gold and 2 bronze medals. Lara’s career in sport has included management roles with UBC’s Department of Athletics & Recreation, Air Canada PGA TOUR Championship, and BC Sports Hall of Fame & Museum. Lara was the Project Manager, Aboriginal Sport & Youth, for the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC).
Lara was inducted into the Chilliwack Sports Hall of Fame in 2016 for her achievements in and contribution to sport. She is an ambassador for the #LeveltheField campaign that promotes gender equity in sport and is also a Trustee for the BC Sports Hall of Fame & Museum. Since 2014, Lara has served as an elected Councillor for her nation. Lara resides in Chilliwack, BC, on the Sqwá Reserve, with her husband and two children.
Director, Healthy Living
Robynne Edgar has worked in the area of Aboriginal health for over 15 years and is a firm believer that physical activity is the key to obtaining balance and strong mental and physical health. She learned at an early age how sport contributes to positive self-esteem.
As an athlete, her most notable sporting accomplishment was competing at both the national and international levels in professional beach volleyball where she achieved two National titles and qualified for the 1996 Summer Olympics.
More recently, she has embraced her passion for the traditional and medicinal uses for plants and fungi and can often be found in the mountains gathering medicine. Robynne has completed 2 apprenticeships in Herbal Medicine and Human Physiology, and the nutritional and medicinal benefits of Northwest plants, and has been gathering wild foods since she was 6. She shares her teachings with her son and has future goals to work together with traditional knowledge keepers in Indigenous communities to protect and revitalize these practices for future generations.
Robynne is extremely proud of her Cree and Japanese heritage and her greatest joy is raising her two sons with her husband on Vancouver Island.
Tara comes to our organization with more than 17 years of experience in Indigenous Health. In her most recent role as Director, Office of Indigenous Health, Ministry of Health, Tara oversaw the file for the Aboriginal Healthy Living Activities and was instrumental in establishing the collaborative partnership between the Ministry of Health and I·SPARC, which has been essential to the program area’s growth and success.
Tara is Métis, with lineage from Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and a graduate from the Indigenous Governance Program from the University of Victoria. Prior to joining the BC Public Service, Tara spent over 30 years working with Indigenous communities in a variety of capacities including employment, education, sport and recreation, and community and cultural programs. Tara’s passion for sport is reflected in her close affiliation to the North American Indigenous Games and Team BC’s participation in the games dating back to 1993.
Over the next two years, Tara will serve in the capacity of Special Advisor, providing leadership in the development of the Cultural Competency and Safety component of the Physical Activity Strategy and the organization’s strategic planning processes.
Manager, Premier’s Awards and Communications
Manager, Sport Development & Community Engagement
A member of the Namgis First Nation, Michelle was raised in the Okanagan. Michelle is a graduate from Kansas Wesleyan University with a Master’s Degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Sport Management and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Health, Physical Education and Recreation. While in Kansas, Michelle was a catcher for the KWU Coyotes Women’s Softball Team for 2 seasons and then began her coaching career there with 2 seasons as an assistant coach and 1 season as an interim head coach. She continues to coach softball and has coached Team BC to a gold medal win at the 2014 NAIG as well as Team BC’s softball for the 2017 NAIG. Michelle is currently the Associate Head Coach of the UBCO Heat Softball Program.
Michelle was previously the Interior Regional Coordinator and is a member of the BC Games Society and PacificSport Okanagan Board of Directors. Michelle believes in the power of sport and is passionate about providing new opportunities for young people. She enjoys spending her Okanagan summers at the lake and winters at the ski hill.
Provincial Coordinator, Healthy Living
Physical activity has been a part of Jessie’s life since she first hit the soccer fields as a clumsy 5-year old. Today, Jessie stays active running, biking to work, and regularly practicing yoga.
Jessie’s background in International Business both satisfied her love of learning and love of travel, combing her way through Europe, South East Asia and Australia through most of her early 20’s. The West Coast lifestyle ultimately brought Jessie home, and she’s happy to be back on Vancouver Island swimming in the ocean, camping in the woods, and sharing many vegetarian meals with friends.
Jessie has a long family lineage on Saltspring – Japanese heritage on her Father’s side, Scottish and English on her Mother’s – and she hopes to move back to the island someday.
Daniel Young-Mercer Ayeem Ganaaw
Provincial Coordinator, Physical Activity, Training & Development
Daniel Young-Mercer is entering his third year with I·SPARC’s Aboriginal Healthy Living Activities department. Having personal experience in delivering front-line programs in rural/remote communities helps Daniel bring a strong perspective of community needs when it comes to successful programming. His favorite part about his role with I·SPARC is being able to help train leaders in HYHC, ARW, and FitNation programming as he believes these three programs have the ability to change lives within our indigenous communities.
His Nisga’a name is Ayeem Ganaaw, which means Fast Frog. He was born and raised in Terrace, BC. His mother is Bonita Young-Mercer from Kispiox (Gitxsan) and his father is Arthur Mercer from Gitlaxtaamiks (Nisga’a).
He grew up playing every sport the community had to offer, but his highest level of play was collegiate soccer (PACWEST Division) with the Vancouver Island University Mariners, having won Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals at the CCAA National Championships. Currently he plays for Bays United FC in the VISL Division 2 league on Vancouver Island. In his spare time he enjoys keeping fit in kettle bell classes at his local gym, or playing on his co-ed recreation basketball team.
Amanda de Faye
Provincial Coordinator, HealthBeat
Born and raised in Richmond, BC on Coast Salish territory, Amanda is of Cree Métis and English/French descent. Amanda has a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology and recently completed her MSc in Experimental Medicine at UBC.
Amanda’s introduction to physical activity began at a young age spending her summers running, biking and playing outdoors. While playing competitive high school basketball, Amanda experienced the power of physical activity and team sports for physical health and mental wellness. This fundamental experience led Amanda into the area of physical activity promotion where she continues to remain passionate about helping others discover the benefits of regular physical activity.
Having transitioned from competitive basketball to recreational physical activity, Amanda is happiest when she is out in the woods hiking and exploring with her partner. Amanda also loves to run, work out, throw a frisbee, play recreational basketball, read and cook healthy, delicious meals.
Provincial Coordinator, Aboriginal RunWalk
Susan Meier was raised in Surrey but now calls Vancouver home. Coming from a family of six and is the youngest of four, Susan prides herself in her family who taught her at an early age the importance of loyalty, perseverance and sports! She hopes to instill these positive beliefs and values in her two-year old son.
Susan graduated from the University of British Columbia’s Human Kinetics program and has been a part of the RunWalk team since the program’s beginning in 2007. She brings forth 13 years of knowledge and experience working with Indigenous communities and has a great passion to deliver the message of health and wellness.
Susan’s passion for sports, and belief in active healthy living, reflects in her dynamic lifestyle as she is actively involved in a number of recreational sports and devotes her time as a volunteer at a Vancouver social recreation club that encourages physical activity and active lifestyle. Another life’s passion for Susan is traveling. She is an advocate in gaining the sense of renewal and adventure through sport and travel, and if she is not participating in sports in her leisure time (or teaching her young son how to play sports!), she is travelling the world and gaining unforgettable experiences.
Project Coordinator, Schools Physical Activity & Physical Literacy
Born in Williams Lake, Lise is of Cree/Métis and Swedish/Scottish descent. She spent the past 9 years working for the Surrey School District – the largest school district in BC – in Aboriginal Child & Youth Care and Special Education. She is also an Honour Your Health Challenge leader. Before joining ISPARC staff, Lise accompanied Team BC’s U16 volleyball team as a volunteer chaperone to Toronto 2017 NAIG and supported them on their journey to a silver medal.
A lover and player of many sports including softball, volleyball, skiing and snowmobiling, her true talent is in billiards. Lise has played in various 8 and 9 ball leagues on the Island and the Lower Mainland and proudly took home the Most Sportsmanlike Player in the 2015 Provincials, an award that she believes represents the purest integrity in sport. Having studied Buddhist philosophy, she is currently in the early stages of training to trek the highest monasteries in Tibet and hike to Everest Base Camp in Nepal which sits at 17,598 feet.
She is happiest with her down-rigger set at 65 feet in the Chain Group Islands on her Dad’s boat and cannot possibly imagine a better life than on the Island with her parents, husband and 3 year old daughter.
Provincial Coordinator, Sport for Life Programs
Kim is Cree from Lac La Ronge, Saskatchewan, and has lived most of her life in BC. Before moving to Vancouver Island, Kim graduated from Nicola Valley Institute of Technology with a Fish & Wildlife, Grassland, Range and Recreation Management diploma, post business certification in Natural Resources and Non-Profit Management.
With over 20 years experience working with Indigenous communities & organizations in the field of sport and recreation programming, Kim is proud to have been part of Team BC support staff for 2014 & 2017 NAIG and one of the first Team BC Indigenous female coaches to attend the 2015 Canada Winter Games in the sport of snowboarding. Building on her extensive volunteer experience in sport & recreation development, Kim took on the lead role of Indigenous Snowboard Program at Canada Snowboard.
Kim is thrilled to be part of the I·SPARC team once again, to continue connecting with Indigenous communities, sport organizations in BC and create opportunities or stepping stones for the next generation of Indigenous participants, leaders and athletes. In her spare time, Kim enjoys running trails in Cumberland, biking, hiking mountains and during the winter season she can be found snowshoeing, cross country skiing and snowboarding at the local ski hill.
Provincial Coordinator, Performance Sport
Alissa Assu is a member of the Laksamshu (Fireweed) Clan from the Wet’suwet’en First Nation located in Witset, B.C. Alissa is a graduate of Simon Fraser University with BA with a double minor in Criminology and First Nation Studies.
Alissa now focuses her passion for sports and wellness towards Indigenous people. She has extensive experience supporting Team BC with the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) and the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships (NAHC). Alissa is a former NAIG badminton athlete earning gold, silver and bronze along with winning the BC High School Championships with Eric Hamber Secondary School. Alissa has also competed at 4 Jr.Canadian National Badminton Championships, BC Winter Games and former Falcon alumni with Langara College.
Alissa enjoy raising her family on Vancouver Island. She enjoys travelling, hiking, disneyland, along with volunteering with the BC Kidney Foundation, Canadian Blood Services Society and serves as an Indigenous Patient Partner on a number of Indigenous Renal research projects.
Patricia Campbell Yah-tsu-sutlh & Klisnit-aq
Patricia (Patti) Campbell’s two traditional names Yah-tsu-sutlh and Klisnit-aq, translate to “stepping out of the canoe” and roughly “a place within Huu-ay-aht territory”. Patti is from the Ahousaht First Nation, located near Tofino, BC. She comes from two very big families with ties to Hesquiaht, Ditidaht, and Huu-ay-aht.
Patti has spent a majority of her life in school and working, including post-secondary studies in Criminal Justice, Psychology and English. She also completed carpentry training and obtained certification in Forming & Foundations, Framing, and Finishing. She has worked for her Nation in varying departments—community health, housing (labourer and administrative), general administration, and accounting.
Patti moved to Victoria in 2018 and found new family with some of the Songhees First Nation people, and is grateful to be living in their lands with her husband and daughter.
Regional Sport and Physical Activity Coordinators
Sport and Physical Activity Coordinator
Alana Cook is a proud Métis woman, born and raised in the Fraser Valley region of British Columbia. She graduated from the University of the Fraser Valley in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts, and was then accepted into the Aboriginal Youth Internship Program for a position with the Ministry of Community, Sports, and Cultural Development. A FitNation Leader, Métis Youth Role Model, and Youth Counsellor with the Urban Native Youth Association, Alana’s experience lies in working with youth to achieve excellence in sports. Her professional goal is to work within an organization that supports sports, wellness, and a dedication to Aboriginal culture, and she believes she has found her dream job with the I·SPARC.
An avid athlete from an early age, Alana competed in soccer, rugby, volleyball, badminton, cross-country, and any other team sport she could get her hands on. At the age of nineteen, she discovered Mixed Martial Arts, and this has been her passion ever since. Her sports credentials include medals in boxing, grappling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, pankration, and wrestling. She recently returned from Thailand, where she trained Muay Thai for several months and won her first professional fight. Alana also loves travelling, corgis, and spending time in the outdoors.
Bernard ‘Buzz’ Manuel, Jr.
Sport and Physical Activity Coordinator
Buzz Manuel, Jr. is a member of the Upper Nicola Band and resides out in Spaxomin with his wife, Maple, and their three boys; Keanu, Phoenix and Linden. Proud of his strong Nlaka’pamux and Syilx roots, Buzz grew up playing a lot of sports and his highest level of competition was collegiate Cross Country Running with the Red Deer College Kings and representing Team BC in Track and Field at the 1995, 1997 and 2002 North American Indigenous Games. Embracing the Sport for Life movement, Buzz plays recreation hockey and slow pitch in Merritt and trains for Spartan Races and Masters Track and Field meets. Buzz also enjoys hunting, fishing and preserving food with his family.
Buzz has represented Team BC at the past seven editions of the North American Indigenous Games as an athlete and coach for Athletics and Team BC Mission Staff member. Buzz holds a diploma in Recreation and Sport Management and a diploma in Physical Education from Vancouver Island University.
Sport and Physical Activity Coordinator
Sport and Physical Activity Coordinator
Toni is a member of the Gitxsan Nation, from the house of Niisto, and she resides in Gitanmaax, BC. Prior to joining the I·SPARC staff, Toni has been connected to I·SPARC programs in various volunteer capacities over the past several years including helping lead the Regional soccer processes in the Northwest in 2013 in preparation for 2014 NAIG, serving as Team BC manager for soccer at 2014 NAIG, hosting I·SPARC clinic/camps in the Hazeltons, and serving as part of the Mission Staff for Team BC at the 2017 NAIG.
Toni has been a long standing volunteer within the Hazelton Minor Hockey Association and has been a coordinator for Hazelton Youth Soccer. Toni and her spouse, Chris, are passionate supporters of youth sport development in northern BC. As an avid sports fan, sports parent, and a team manager for various sports, Toni has helped coordinate team fundraising and team travel to sporting events across the country.
Pete Natrall Sxw’alhkin
Vancouver Coastal Region
Sport and Physical Activity Coordinator
Pete was born and raised in North Vancouver proudly carry’s the ancestral name Sxw’alhkin gifted to him from his late Grandparents. Pete graduated from Sutherland Secondary high school and continued his studies at Capilano University completing the Retail Marketing program with a focus in Marketing and Communications.
Pete played and competed in various lacrosse leagues and tournaments for the last 25 years. Pete is currently is involved with the Squamish Nation Shapeshifters Men’s Masters Lacrosse team as the General Manager and player. Pete has had the opportunity to compete in Provincial, National and International Lacrosse tournaments. Pete learned at a young age the importance of hard work, dedication, commitment and team work through lacrosse.
Pete has a passion for working within First Nation communities and has had the opportunity to work with influential First Nation organization that included: Tewanee Consulting Group, the Four Host First Nation Secretariat, Squamish Nation, the First Nation Snowboard Team, the First Nations Health Council and now with the Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity & Recreation Council and looks to bring his past experiences to the Vancouver Coastal Region.
James Nyce Ato’olagasxw
Vancouver Island Region
Sport and Physical Activity Coordinator
James was born and raised in Gitxsan laxyip (territory) in the village of Kispiox, BC. He is proud to be Gitxsan on his mother’s side and Haisla on his father’s side. His traditional name is Ato’olagasxw and he belongs to Wilps xGwiomtxw from the Lax Gibuu (wolf) clan. He grew up playing basketball and soccer, and later honoured his Haisla roots specializing in basketball.
In 2015, he graduated from Camosun College with a Degree in Sport and Fitness Leadership and a Sport Management designation. Since graduating he has found his passion working with Indigenous youth in various roles within the Friendship Centre movement. First, as a community-based researcher, then as a youth support worker, and most recently as a Manager of Youth Programs at VNFC. James is passionate about working from a youth-centered approach and using sport, physical activity, and recreation as a tool to help young people develop leadership skills, self-confidence & self-efficacy, and fundamental life skills.
He is a big Toronto Raptors fan (GO RAPTORS!). In his spare time, he enjoys being creative and practicing North West Coast formline art, practicing film photography, and being in nature with his partner, Rosalie, and their newborn baby girl, Misaax.