Rick Brant teho:ka
Chief Executive Officer
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.
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.
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 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 and was elected as Chief in 2020. Lara resides 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.
Brenda is a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) and for the last eight years she has worked with Grant Thornton as an Assurance Manager in their Nanaimo office. Among her many responsibilities, Brenda mentored accounting students and assisted them with their training and professional development.
Before changing careers to become a CPA, Brenda received a Bachelor of Science, with a concentration on Environmental Science from SFU. Using the knowledge from the degree, Brenda worked with the First Nations’ Emergency Services Society as an Environmental Specialist.
Brenda is passionate about volunteering with multiple not-for-profit organizations and is excited to be working with I∙SPARC and its amazing vision.
Brenda enjoys practicing yoga and walking on local trails in search for birds, particularly owls.
Finance & Administrative Coordinator
Manager, Communications and Recognition Programs
bio to come
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.
Manager, 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 sixth year with I·SPARC’s Healthy Living division. Having personal experience in delivering front-line programs within Indigenous 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, IRW, and FitNation programming as he believes these three programs have the ability to change lives.
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, Indigenous 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.
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
Joel is from Tla’amin First Nation and is a former student-athlete at Vancouver Island University where he received a Bachelor of Arts Degree with a major in Sport, Health, and Physical Education, and a minor in Indigenous Studies. At VIU he played 5 years for the men’s varsity soccer team, and won Gold at the CCAA National Championships in 2017. Joel not only served as a team captain with VIU, he also served as Assistant Coach for the team following graduation.
Joel also helped Team BC win the gold medal in soccer at the Cowichan 2008 North American Indigenous Games. Joel is a natural leader who recently served as Director of Program Development at the Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre.
Joel strongly believes in the value of sport, and loves working in community. He loves to coach, play soccer, and spend time with his family and friends.
Project Coordinator, Schools Physical Activity & Physical Literacy
Alex is proud of her Métis heritage and has lived all around the beautiful province of BC. She now calls Victoria home on Lekwungen speaking territory of the Coast Salish people in Greater Victoria. From experience working in the North, she is particularly adept at collaboration and enjoys the process of bringing together creative minds to build more resources and tools for our community.
Although she earned a degree and a handful of certificates, Alex’s best learnings come from conversations with people and life experiences.
Growing up, Alex dabbled in a number of sports like boxing with her cousin and softball with her cap pulled down to her nose, but it was swimming and rugby that she was most dedicated to. More recently, Alex likes to jump in lakes in the Summer and play in the snow in the Winter.
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 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
Regional Program Assistant
Julie is from Stz’uminus First Nation and is a 4th year student completing her final semester at Camosun College where she will graduate with a Bachelor Degree in Sport and Fitness Leadership, specializing in exercise and wellness.
Julie has joined I·SPARC to fulfill a co-op internship placement focusing on curation of at-home training resources to support coaches and athletes during the isolation of the global COVID-19 pandemic, building a campaign to promote daily movement, and supporting other programs and activities within the sport division.
Julie has resided in W̱SÁNEĆ on the Saanich Peninsula for the last 16 years. She loves being on the water, whether it’s a paddle board or canoe/kayak. As a mother, Julie’s beautiful daughter keeps her motivated, busy, and active.
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.
Vancouver Island Region
Interim Sport and Physical Activity Coordinator
Jeremy Speller is Mi’gmaq from Gespe’gewa’gi, Mi’gma’gi and a grateful visitor to Lekwungen territories. He is the interim Vancouver Island’s Regional Sport and Physical Activity Coordinator with I•SPARC. He is guided by a strong sense of purpose in supporting Indigenous self-determination, particularly through dedicating much of his time and effort to Indigenous youth and communities by promoting healthy living through sports and recreation, cultural and language revitalization, and Indigenous resurgence.
Sports, specifically basketball, has been medicine for Jeremy and much of his journey through life. He played university basketball, coached and hosted camps for Indigenous youth, coached in the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG), and collaboratively developed the basketball program in his home community Gesgapegiag.
As the interim Vancouver Island’s Regional Sport and Physical Activity Coordinator, Jeremy ensures to do his best to support and serve the Indigenous communities and youth of the Island.
James Nyce Ato’olagasxw
Vancouver Island Region
Sport and Physical Activity Coordinator (Currently on Paternity Leave)
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.