Tahltan Central Government (TCG) President Chad Norman Day’s commitment to fitness and sports led him to start the Healthy Active Tahltans (HAT) initiative seven years ago.
Now, Day has committed to paying minor hockey league registration fees for 60 to 80 Tahltan youths from Dease Lake, Iskut and Telegraph Creek.
One of the minor hockey organizers reached out to Day to see if there were funding streams available to sponsor some of the players and get hockey rolling again after COVID-19 put brakes on two seasons. The TCG leader used the opportunity to pay for all of them.
For Day, the $5,000 to $8,000 expense, depending on how many players register, is a way of giving back to his community.
“When you have a good life because people put you in that place, then you should try to return the favour when you can and I’m just at a place now in my life where I’m comfortable making those kind of financial donations back to my people,” said Day.
Back in 2014, Day was the youngest TCG president to be elected to office and he leveraged that position to connect with young Tahltans and inspire them to live healthier lives.
“When I became the president, I saw that there was a lot of need for further resources in our communities and that our children, had not had leaders come in before, and do activities with them. I thought that I was in a position being the youngest president ever and somebody that was so active to just start engaging more with the schools.”
“I was always really passionate about health and fitness since I was a kid,” said the 34-year-old, adding that sports saved his life in a way when he was youth himself.
That is one of the reasons why Day says he encouraged an active lifestyle as a way of life for the younger generation. Over the years he kept the ball rolling on social media with hashtags and posted pictures while out hunting or working out, encouraging people to do the same while wearing HAT t-shirts.
Day started HAT as a personal project in 2014 after being inspired by Arizona local Waylon Pahona and his Healthy Active Natives movement. Pahona’s social media movement, which he started nine years ago, was an attempt to inspire Indigenous peoples to achieve physical and mental wellness. Today the group has nearly 75 thousand followers across North America.
Since then, Day has fundraised over $250,000, visited schools across Tahltan territory, sponsored hockey games and set up fitness spaces in communities.
While Day has personally donated $20,000 over the years to HAT, having industry and mining giants working in the territory also helps when it comes to donations and sponsorships.
Most of the money gets funnelled back into local initiatives with a vast majority of it used for team sports such hockey including the annual sponsorship for locals to participate in the All Native Hockey tournament held in Whitehorse.
“The Tahltan are really passionate about hockey,” said Day.
Over the past couple years, with COVID-19 halting hockey tournaments and school visits, the funds were used to setting up and improving fitness spaces.
This year between $30,000 to $40,000 was funnelled into improving fitness centres in Telegraph Creek and Iskut. Day said they are in the process of creating a fitness space in Dease Lake too.
“As long as I’m in Tahltan leadership, it [HAT] is an initiative that I’ll always personally donate to and you know, I’ll always try to be a good example for our youth and for our people because I think health and nutrition and fitness is just such an important aspect of having a balanced life.”