For the first time in 24 years, St. Mary’s First Nation will host the New Brunswick Indian Summer Games.

The popular sports event, which drew some 1,200 athletes from aboriginal communities around the province when it was last held in 1987, ended when federal funding was withdrawn.

But this summer the New Brunswick Aboriginal Sport and Recreation Authority (ABASRA) revived the games, holding the event in July at Elsipogtog First Nation at Big Cove. Some 900 athletes and coaches were involved.

Patrick Bernard, chairman of NBASRA, said the aim of the games is to encourage an active lifestyle among First Nations people and their main target will be the youth.

“They’re going to be looking at getting more involved in sports and recreation. They’re going to want to get into the games. They are going to say, ‘hey, I’ve got something to look forward to for next year,”‘ said Bernard.

St. Mary’s Chief Candace Paul was pleased to have her community chosen as host for next year.

Paul said the Games will bring her community closer together and all of New Brunswick’s 15 First Nations communities closer.

In past games “the whole community shut down and would participate. It would rally community support. It brought communities together. The competition was fierce. It was a way to celebrate our culture in the spirit of competition,” said the chief.

Heather Currie, St. Marys’ co-ordinator of the games, said she is excited about hosting the games. “These games promote athletic skills, sportsmanship and social interaction. We will spare no efforts in providing the Aboriginal youth of the province a positive experience they will enjoy and remember for the rest of their lives,” said Currie.

Organizers are still working on what sports to include.

But Bernard said volleyball, ball hockey, archery, baseball, softball and fast ball, golf and track and field will definitely be included. They are also looking at several other sports.

“It’s going to be a big event,” said Bernard.

Some of the communities are too small to form their own teams. Bernard said he hopes larger communities will make room for them as well as off reserve athletes that want to participate.

Each community will contribute to the costs and organizers are seeking sponsors and other sports organizations to contribute non-monetary resources.

Dates for the 2011 games have not been finalized. Bernard said one option is the N,B. Day long weekend in August.

New Brunswick Aboriginal Sport and Recreation Authority (NBASRA) was created to encourage healthy active lifestyles among the province’s First Nations people through sport and recreation.

The organization is also committed to teaching leadership and offering support to coaches and athletes in seeking the highest levels of achievement possible.