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First aid staff kept on their toes at the All Native Basketball Tournament

The Prince Rupert tournament sees injuries of all types from players and fans

It is day four of the 64th annual All Native Basketball Tournament in Prince Rupert, and people on crutches are becoming an increasingly common sight. But sprained ankles are not the only matter first aid supervisor James Brown has to attend to at the ANBT.

With thousands of fans roaming the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre and over 10 games per day, Brown said he and his team are busy with every injury imaginable, from concussions to dislocated knees.

Cecile Stewart has been working as a first aid attendant at the ANBT for 10 years, though she has also played and has been a spectator. With near-constant action all week long, Stewart said the event is a welcome reprieve from her usual position at construction sites, where the work can often be mundane and solitary.

“This is just perfect because when you work on a job, you’re mainly by yourself, but here you get a lot of team support,” she said.

“I remember when I first started, I was scared to assess an injury, like I was scared to touch them. Now I can do it with my eyes closed.”

Lawrence Brown, who is also James Brown’s uncle, has been part of the ANBT’s first aid team for 12 years. Like Stewart, he enjoys the fast pace of the ANBT.

“It’s kind of like a training job,” he said.

“At BC Ferries… we’re kind of waiting, sometimes nothing happens for two weeks. But here, almost every game you’re out there doing something.”

Lawrence Brown said he enjoys mentoring young first aid attendants, while Stewart said there is plenty of opportunity to learn from one another, especially when fresh staff come in with new techniques.

Over the years, James Brown has come to realize the importance of having a large team to ensure they are never left short-handed. He has three attendants in the main and secondary gym at all times, with two available for the game in front of them and one in case of a non-basketball incident.

“Sometimes we get triage when we’re treating somebody in our first aid stations and then we get called to the bleachers or elsewhere. And that’s why I really want a team of three,” he said.

“It’s always good to have enough first aid staff because… the amount of people and just how congested it can be, it really rates as high-risk.”

READ MORE: 2024 All Native Basketball Tournament - Day 2 Recap

James Brown, also a city councillor at the Port Edward municipality, has been working as a first aid attendant at the ANBT for 25 years, and has met plenty of friends along the way. He spends much of the scant free time he has over the week reconnecting with old friends from all over.

“What I love about the All Native is that we get to see old acquaintances, friends, relatives. And the unity that you see within all the nations, all the nations get along here,” he said.

“Sure, they battle on the floor, but you leave it on the floor and everybody gets along here. Everybody respects one another.”

Stewart and Lawrence Brown share a similar love for the major tournament, constantly looking forward to see friends from the past.

“It’s like a family, you see everybody every year. It’s just perfect, it’s your own little community,” Stewart said.

Lawrence Brown has played for multiple teams over the years, with his own children and grandchildren participating. He said the level of basketball improves each year as the tournament has gradually expanded.

“It’s a gathering of everybody from different nations, culture, sports. You learn to respect people, you find the people that you’ve played against and then you all come together,” he said.

First aid staff are also able to impact the game, according to 22-year veteran Glenn Joseph.

“When you get to the knockout rounds, people don’t want to come over to first aid for a minor cut. But there’s a no blood rule, so when they have blood, they have to come over and get bandaged up,” Joseph said.

“So if you can do that really fast and then get them back into the game… there’s been a few times where a guy as soon as he got in got a basket and he looked at us and was like ‘thanks guys.’ It feels like you’re really part of the game.”

Joseph, who usually works as a first aid attendant at Trigon Terminals, said the experience he has accumulated at ANBT gave him the confidence to open his own company, which provides first aid staff to construction sites, employing Stewart, who is also a family friend.

When James Brown spoke to The Northern View, he had just dealt with an injury from an unfortunate fight in what is usually a peaceful event.

After years of nagging the tournament committee, Brown was finally able to walk alongside dancers, players and referees for the opening ceremonies for the 2024 edition, which were led by the Gitxsan Thunder dance group. Joining the ceremonies was a big moment for the first aid veteran who is happy his team was recognized for its tireless work.

The team wears a memorial ribbon for Stephanie Haldane, a former first aid attendant at the tournament who died in 2023.

READ MORE: 2024 All Native Basketball Tournament - Day 3 Recap

About the Author: Seth Forward, Local Journalism Initiative

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