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Sylvia White and Gracie Diabo make the final push in the under-14 female 1000m final at the 2017 on Thursday. (Cameron Perrier/CBC) Cameron Perrier is an associate producer with CBC in Toronto. Raised in the Prairies, he started with CBC as a Joan Donaldson scholar. Proud of his Métis ancestry from Quebec, Cameron aims to highlight voices and perspectives.

At its heart, the Kahnawà:ke canoe and kayak team is dedicated to having fun, but that hasn’t stopped them from being serious competition on the water at the 2017 North American Indigenous Games.

The team of 12, smaller than most, has racked up 25 medals in the discipline, making up most of the 35 medals at the time of publishing for Team Eastern Door and The North (EDN).

But for coach Sharon Rice, medals aren’t the be-all-end-all measure of success for the team.

"If we got two medals or no medals, that’s great as well because we came here, we set goals, they were committed, they followed through and for them just racing their best, to me, that’s the gold medal," she said.

The canoe and kayak team from Kahnawà:ke nearly swept the girls’ competition in the Regina 2014 , and Maris Jacobs, who competed in Regina and has returned as an assistant coach, sees the determination to repeat their past success.

"I think that they have a lot of determination. I can see them when they get frustrated … I know they want to fix it right away," Jacobs said.

"They want to do well, and I think that they know it takes hard work, because it’s not an easy sport." Roots in the community

Rice is not only a coach at NAIG, she’s supporting her own grandson in canoeing. She and her four children have paddled for Kahnawà:ke at the games.

Having the sport rooted so deeply in the community near Montreal has been "a major unifier bringing people together," she said.

"When you know someone’s behind you, that helps a lot," Rice said.

"And the sporting event is not just about sport, it’s about the individual: seeing them succeed, seeing them set goals and see them striving towards them whether it’s in sports or other things." Kakwitene Jacobs and Nikki Kirby from Kahnawà:ke push to the finish line during the canoe finals at the North American Indigenous Games on Thursday. The Kahnawà:ke girls contributed to 25 medals for Team Eastern Door and the North (EDN). (Cameron Perrier/CBC) Competitor Belle Phillips feels the support of her community when she checks her social media after racing.

"When you go on, it’s comments and comments congratulating you telling you, ‘Good job, keep going,’ so it’s really big," she said.

Phillips also sees the team as a cohesive unit, even though some of the girls are new to the team.

"We’re always cheering each other on, hoping they can get as many medals as they can." ‘It’s my medicine’

Rice goes on the water when she’s stressed, saying it helps her feel whole and connected. The same can be said of the rest of the paddlers, who are eager to get out on the water each spring."Honestly the connection — canoeing is not just a sport, it’s a way of life," Rice said. "Everything you do is surrounded by water and the water is important to us."She adds the water makes everyone equal. The shared playground goes beyond sport; it’s a way of life."It brings you back to earth. We can all drive the fancy cars and stuff like that, but the water it’s real and we’re all equal when we’re on the water," she said."No one’s better […]

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