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Wabigoon Lake’s Norris relives Olympic experiences

Chris Marchand

Chris Marchand served as editor of the Dryden Observer from August 2009 to April 2018.

Wabigoon’s Lake Ojibway Nation’s Brittany Norris has been dancing in her culture’s traditional style since she was able to walk. Little did she know that talent would take her to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games.

The big moment. Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation’s Brittany Norris (far right) dances in the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.
Brittany Norris (left) hangs out backstage at the Vancouver Olympic Opening Ceremonies

Norris, age 20, was picked from thousands of applicants to join over 320 aboriginal Canadians for 16 days of events, rehearsals and a performance role in the spectacular Olympic Opening Ceremonies, Feb. 19, in Vancouver.

“I saw a flyer in the reserve band office,” said Norris. “I wasn’t even going to apply because it was so vague and I didn’t know what it was about. I was really encouraged by a band council member and my Aunty Donna.”

Once chosen, Norris says she was practically sworn to secrecy and could share very few details with anyone.

Arriving in Vancouver in the lead-up to the Games, Norris said the rehearsal schedule was intense.

“We were rehearsing eight to 12 hours  everyday,” said Norris. “There were totem poles rising out of the ground, so we had to be careful where we were stepping.”

To be a part of an event with a truly massive global television audience such as an Olympic Games is difficult for Norris to describe. She says the sheer amount of rehearsal time helped overcome the nerves.

“It was nerve-wracking but exciting at the same time,” she said. “But after doing it every day for hours, it almost seemed like another rehearsal – we were all so used to it.”

As a reward for their hard work, Norris and her fellow performers enjoyed attending a few Olympic events, watching the Canadian Women’s Hockey Team deliver an 18-0 drubbing to Slovakia, meeting Canada’s bobsleigh team, and enjoying an open dialogue with Canada’s Governor General Michaelle Jean.

Norris says the crew even made it up to Whistler for the torch relay and enjoyed a gondola ride from peak-to-peak. They also were given a private tour of the new ski jumping facility constructed for the Games.

Reflecting back on the experience, she says the chance to interact with so many indigenous Canadians  was a rare and precious opportunity.

“I’ve always been pretty small town, hung around here and Wabigoon,” she said. “I got to meet people from the Yukon, Inuit people, Mohawk people, indigenous people from all over Canada.”

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