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 Aboriginal 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 Skwah First Nation (Stó:lō) ancestry and a dedicated athlete, Lara focused her passion for sport towards Indigenous sport and youth initiatives following graduation with a BKin degree in Sport Management (UBC).
In 2005, Lara was awarded the National Tom Longboat Award for Female Aboriginal Athlete of the Year in Canada and has competed in four World Championships in the sport of Ultimate, winning two gold and two bronze medals. Lara’s career in sport has included management roles with UBC’s Department of Athletics & Recreation, the Air Canada PGA TOUR Championship, and the 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. Lara 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. She lives in Chilliwack, BC, on the Skwah 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 currently the Director of Healthy Living for I·SPARC. She is a firm believer that physical activity is the key to obtaining balance and strong mental and physical health, and 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.
Manager, Premier’s Awards and Communications
Felicia comes from the Ławit’sis and Ḵwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nations of the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation, bringing perspectives rooted in her cultural upbringing and traditional foundation. With a passion for culture and staying active, she believes in the power of sport to build confidence in young people and create a sense of belonging and community spirit.
Felicia has extensive experience developing and implementing marketing and communications strategies and enjoys the process of creating the tools and materials required to see those strategies come alive. Felicia loved her role as the Communications Manager for Team BC during their historic win at the North American Indigenous Games in 2014. She is happy to be back with the I·SPARC team to provide support for the Premier’s Awards for Aboriginal Youth Excellence in Sport and promote the organization’s work to advance the health and well-being of individuals and communities throughout the province.
Felicia and her family enjoy spending much of their time hiking and being outdoors, enjoying all that the Cowichan Valley has to offer.
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.
Megan grew up on beautiful Babine Lake and in the Smithers area. She loves to hike, swim, camp, snowshoe, and learn about the plants, animals, and geology of wherever she happens to be.
A background in the music and the arts allowed her to travel extensively in both well-known and obscure parts of North America, acquire a varied skill set, and learn first-hand about the importance of physical activity and wellness in all aspects of performance.
She feels very lucky to be working with such amazing people and connecting with different communities through the work of the I·SPARC.
Provincial Coordinator, Healthy Living Activities
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.
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
A member of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, Alissa Assue belongs to the Laksamshu (Fireweed) Clan located in Moircetown. She currently resides in Campbell River with her husband, Cody. Alissa has graduated from Simon Fraser University with a Bachelor of Arts with a focus on First Nations and Criminology studies.
Alissa is a former Team BC athlete for the 2008 North American Indigenous Games; she earned a gold, silver and bronze in the sport of badminton. Following NAIG, Alissa received scholarships to attend Langara College, where she played with the Langara Falcons for two seasons. She has also competed at the BC Winter Games, several Jr. Canadian National Badminton Championships and won the BC High School Provincials.
Alissa remains active by biking, hiking, badminton, softball, snowboarding and regularly practicing yoga. She is also passionate for volunteering and currently serves as the patient partner ambassador for the “BC-wide program for Rural, Remote, and Indigenous Communities to Gain Access to Kidney Transplantation: The BRRIDGE to Transplantation Initiative”.
Provincial Coordinator, Sport Development & Community Engagement
Dianne Garner is a member of the Adams Lake Band; one of the Secwepemc First Nations. Dianne was adopted and raised in Abbotsford. She graduated with her Aboriginal Leadership Certificate from the JIBC and has worked for over 21 years in Community Development within the Stó:lō Territory and served 24 communities with Xyolhemeylh Child and Family Services Society. Dianne joined the Stó:lō Nation Cultural Committee and partnered with the East Stó:lō Communities for their National Addictions Awareness Week for 5 years.
In 2008 Dianne was honored to be the Advanced Logistics Coordinator for BC 150 and traveled with the Spirit Pole to over 43 different cities in BC, where the Spirit Pole was given to Team BC at the 2008 NAIG in Cowichan. She was honored to be in the role of Community Relations Manager for Sts’ailes Health and Family Services. Dianne previously held the role of Regional Lead for I·SPARC and in 2012 became the Fraser Regional Coordinator. Dianne volunteered in a variety of roles, Co-Chair to Coordinator, for the BC Annual Elders Gathering. She is involved with Archery, Rifle Shooting, FitNation, and has begun her marathon running after 30 years. Everyone that Dianne has worked with is a big part of her life today; Dianne acknowledges the Elders and youth leaders in all they have done to make a difference in their communities, and for what they have taught her to help make a positive impact on our future generations.
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.
Sport and Physical Activity Coordinator
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 and is preparing Team BC’s softball teams for the 2017 NAIG.
Michelle has spent the last four years as the Program Director for the Splatsin First Nation’s Youth Center and is a volunteer Technical Director for Kelowna Minor Fastball and the Pulling Together Canoe Society’s 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 with her family at the lake and winters at the ski hill.
Sport and Physical Activity Coordinator
Born in Ashcroft, Veronica Haddon grew up living in various regions of British Columbia as well as spending several years residing in both Nunavut and the city of Montreal. The past 12 years, Veronica has resided in Prince George raising her family of six children with her spouse.
She is of mixed ancestry; Cree (Tataskweyak Cree Nation, MB) and Anishnaabe (Red Rock Indian Band, ON), Acadian, Finnish, & Ukranian. Moving around, Veronica picked up several languages and speaks fluent French and Spanish with some Carrier, Cree and Inuktitut salutations. Veronica has a B.A. in Anthropology and First Nations Studies from UNBC and has worked in many Indigenous communities of the Northern Region in areas of health, HIV/AIDS/HEPC prevention and education, child welfare, environmental health research, and most notably as the Host First Nation Coordinator for Lheidli T’enneh as part of the 2015 Canada Winter Games.
She is part of a very active family where sport has always played a large role in her life including volleyball, soccer, dance, competitive swimming, synchronized swimming, cross country skiing & hiking. Today, Veronica supports her family in hockey, lacrosse, swimming, dance, soccer, softball and is an avid sports fan. She also enjoys traditional gathering and preserving along with hiking, softball and kayaking.
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.
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.
Vancouver Island Region
Sport and Physical Activity Coordinator
Born in Williams Lake, Lise is of Cree/Metis 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.