For vendors at the All Native Basketball Tournament, the week-long tournament is about more than just selling products.
Some have been coming for decades, while others are operating a stand for the first time in 2024. But all say the positive energy and strong camaraderie is what sets this tournament apart.
Marlene Smith has made the annual trip to Prince Rupert from the Kitseguecla First Nation near Hazelton for 30 years now, selling Indigenous jewellery. Her favourite aspect of the tournament is reconnecting with old friends, though after the pandemic, many have not made it back.
“I used to meet all my old friends here before, and most of them passed away due to COVID,” Smith said.
“Most of them are gone, but some are still here.”
When asked about her most cherished memory from 30 years of vending, Smith immediately recalled an out-of-control electric egg-beater spraying cupcake batter all over the gymnasium floor, summing up the chaos of the week-long tournament.
“Everybody was screaming,” she said while giggling.
Like many other vendors, Smith enjoys the coming together of such a wide variety of First Nations, while she also appreciates the inspiration get involved in the basketball world.
“It’s pretty great because you get to meet a lot of new people and some like coming up here because they get to see how basketball runs, and then they try it when they get home,” Smith said.
Josh Davidson has been selling his unique artwork, which he puts on drums and canvases, for four years. As a self-taught artist, he particularly enjoys the opportunity to get the next generation interested in traditional art.
“The younger generation coming up too, they’re always asking ‘oh how do you do this? How do you do that?’ I give them tips, you know sharing the knowledge,” he said.
Davidson prides himself in his ability to blend realistic art with traditional Haida art into his pieces, carving out a unique niche.
He also loves catching up with friends and acquaintances in Prince Rupert.
“I just like seeing old friends here that always come meet up here,” he said.
Timi Newcombe-Graydon has been attending the ANBT for 20 years, but yet to watch a single basketball game in that time. For the t-shirt vendor from Chilliwack, this week is all business, and her hard work pays off.
“The camaraderie and the sales are amazing, it’s my one of my best events. I’ve narrowed my events down to like six good ones a year and this is number one,” she said.
“I’ve made so many friends along the way.”
Newcombe-Graydon sells custom t-shirts that customers can design at her stand, while she also designs a special tournament shirt each year.
Jaclyn Robinson says creating her handmade earrings is a healing process for herself. She only uses traditional materials such as abalone and cedar wood.
“This lady that I just adore, when I first started, she said, ‘when you’re making jewelry out of traditional materials, it’s like medicine.’ The really important thing is people who wear your pieces. It’s like medicine for their soul,” Robinson said.
It is Kispiox-based Alex Harris’ first time as a vendor at the ANBT and while he still has the majority of the week left, business has been slower than he expected. Harris has been coming as a spectator for years before getting off the vendor wait-list, and loves the cultural melting pot that the tournament is.
“I like the fact that it it brings so many Indigenous people and cultures all together into one place and people get to meet eachother and they get to know eachother as you see the same familiar faces every year. It becomes this family environment,” said Harris.
Harris sells what he describes as Indigenous streetwear, and he puts plenty of spunk in each design.
“It’s t-shirts with an attitude. So you know your your t-shirt can speak for you when you walk into a room,” said Harris.
For Terrace-based Robinson, it is not hard to find familiar faces in the crowd.
“There’s a whole history here. A lot of people I’ve been talking to, they know my parents, they know my grandparents. It’s pretty cool.”