CrossFit Holds Inaugural Indigenous Dialogue

December 26, 2021 by
Photo Credit: CrossFit LLC
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In mid-November, CrossFit held its first-ever Indigenous dialogue. 14 CrossFitters – including members of the Indigenous community and seminar staff – brought together by Dr. Roger Boyer II, gathered to bring recognition to Indigenous Crossfitters and discuss the potential impact of and future for the sport in these communities. 

  • “We were in the [CrossFit] space,” said Boyer, a citizen of the Anishinabek Nation, who began CrossFit a few years ago, losing 150 pounds in the process, “And didn’t see anyone that looked like us. When you go to boxes and different gyms, you begin to look for people who look like you, talk like you… and you start to ask, ‘Are there any Indigenous athletes out there?’”

One big thing: By starting this project, the hope is that CrossFit can bring results for Indigenous communities in ways beyond fitness, giving them a “whoality” of mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical gains. 

  • Boyer explained: “By using CrossFit and our community and the belonging and the love we have, we hope many more can find that same sense of belonging in fitness and in fun, but most of all in the community and loving in our families.

Key Takeaways

  1. Increasing the visualization of Indigenous athletes: “We can be an equitable player, like many of the other nations, so our flags one day walk into that arena,” Boyer said, touching on the CrossFit Games. “In the Olympic games, our people are starting to come out and be recognized. Why not CrossFit and why not us?”

The community also hopes to see more representation in CrossFit-made promotional materials and instructional videos.

  1. Addressing chronic issues: According to the Encyclopedia of Canada, Indigenous peoples have disproportionately poorer health. A report from the National Center for Biotechnology Information listed obesity in First Nations as 60% higher than other Canadians; Type 2 diabetes is one of the most widespread illnesses to impact these communities. 

Boyer himself was living that life. When he found CrossFit, Boyer was prediabetic, prehypertensive, and had a BMI over 40. 

“To be fat was a never traditional value,” Boyer said. “We were subsistent livers. We lived off the land… we harvested everything we had. We were active. We were a fit culture.”

“We can use the CrossFit methodology to erode chronic disease and create [a sense of] belonging,” Boyer continued. “For our men…we can become warriors again. We can find our strength, we can understand what it means to be a humble, loving warrior.”

  1. Helping those that find trouble: In addition to health, members in the dialogue brought up the benefit of CrossFit for Indigenous people struggling with judicial sanctions and substance abuse. CrossFit can help those that “like to find trouble or trouble likes to find them,” Boyer said.
  1. Accessibility: Members of the discussion are looking for accessibility from all points: inclusivity, pricing, and scalability. 

Indigenous populations in Canada experience lower income levels than other Canadians (A 2016 census reported 80% of reserves had a median income below the poverty line), which can turn them away from the program. Creating an atmosphere where Indigenous communities understand that CrossFit will meet them where they are – financially, athletically, via community – is key.

Their next step is to hold an Indigenous seminar and scholarship weekend in partnership with Chuck Carswell and the CrossFit Scholarship Program. There is no date set yet, but Boyer says the dialogue with CrossFit will be kept open to plan for the Spring of 2022. 

  • King and Powell also plan to be a part of this dialogue.  
  • Boyer hopes to connect more Indigenous CrossFitters to this project and continue dialogue via email, noting that they “want to see the circle grow.”

Indigenous Dialogue Members:

  • Dr. Roger Boyer II (Anishinabek Nation)
  • Brad McMillan (Mi’kmaq Nation; Founder and Owner of The Pound)
  • Kris and Kristin Sylliboy (Mi’kmaq Nation; Authors of the 215 tribute WOD)
  • Kyle Labelle (Owner, CrossFit Cornwall
  • Jonathan Julian (Millbrook First Nation)
  • Pete Shaw (CrossFit Seminar Staff )
  • Ariane Wilson (Heiltsuk Nation)
  • Kell Morrisey (Inuk)
  • Landon Walters (First Nations Law) 
  • Paul Tremblay (Owner, CrossFit NCR; CrossFit Country Manager for Canada)
  • Mason C. Alberts (Member, CrossFit DEI Council)
  • Elaine Marino (Global Head of Diversity Equity and Inclusion, CrossFit)
  • Chuck Carswell (CrossFit Seminar Staff)

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