In her hands, Laura Lewis holds a black basketball illustrated with red roots, a flower, leaves and branches.
For the point guard and her teammates on the All My Relations basketball team, the ball reflects their love for the game and Indigenous representation in sport.
But it also represents the team’s focus on support, healing and community.
In New Fundraiser, All-Indigenous Women’s Basketball Team Sells Its Limited Edition game ball to fund a trip to a tournament in the spring, as well as camps to support young people.
“Basketball has brought us together, but what really connects us is the fact that we support each other,” Lewis said.
The Game Ball fundraiser serves as a reminder to “always remember where you came from and always give back to the community you grew up in or live in,” she added.
For nearly two decades, the All My Relations team has been based in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The team is made up of 14 Aboriginal women aged 17 to 40, as well as 40 graduates, both on and off reserve.
Many of the women are single mothers, post-secondary students and community sports advocates, Lewis says — and many suffer from intergenerational trauma and have relatives or friends who have passed away.
Team members support each other by taking advice or doing workouts together.
“Basically, we don’t always choose our family. But it’s the family we really have to choose,” Lewis said.
“Nothing But Beauty”
To design the Game Ball, All My Relations partnered with Local Collective, a Toronto-based advertising agency. The artwork is inspired by the bond of the team, Indigenous culture and its connection to the Earth, said Local Collective Executive Director Kaitlin Doherty.
The work is divided into three parts, Doherty explains: The first is a root that symbolizes the deep roots and relationship that Indigenous culture has with the Earth and its soil.
The second is the leaves and branches, which reflect how the team grows, supports and uplifts its players and the community.
The final piece is the flower in the center of the ball, which represents the strength and beauty of Indigenous communities and the power of their perspective, Doherty says.
“It was so easy to design something so beautiful based on their story. There’s only beauty inside,” she said.
“Awakening the younger generations”
Each ball sells for $100. Proceeds will support the team that will represent Vancouver at the All Native Basketball Tournament in March in Prince Rupert, BC, where dozens of teams from across BC and Alaska will compete.
Depending on the amount raised, proceeds will also support its physical literacy program, which offers basketball camps, youth mentoring and therapy to address trauma.
The motive is “to uplift the younger generations, and in this way they can also aspire to pursue post-secondary education [education] …in addition to playing basketball,” says Lewis.