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Generations of Gitxaała Basketball – Coastal First Nations

November 7, 2023

Bruce Innes, the elected Deputy Chief Councillor for the Gitxaała Nation, remembers being about 13 years old, playing hockey in the basement of his school with other kids in his community in Lax Klan, until the gym opened next door.

“Everybody goes to the gym, except me,” Bruce says. “I’m there alone now, slapping the puck against the wall. My dad seen that and calls me and says, ‘you don’t have to play basketball, but I want you to sit up there and watch Clarence Innes.’ And I did… and I thought he was the coolest basketball player I had ever seen.”

Clarence Innes is one of the basketball legends within the community. Everyone has their OGs — the people who laid the foundation for what basketball represents across the Coast today. Bruce kept watching Clarence, and other players in his village, including his uncles and friends, and it was the start of a life-long relationship with the sport that shaped his life for the better.

Brenna Innes, an Elected Councillor for her Nation and a basketball coach for the junior girl’s team, says the popular annual All Native Basketball Tournament (ANBT), was partly formed in response to the potlatch ban. The ANBT, officially started in 1959, takes place each year in February in Prince Rupert, filling the town of about 12,000 residents with 4,000 new guests.

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