Swan Lake First Nation teen excels in archery in Manitoba as she connects with culture
In a sport usually dominated by men, 13-year-old Waasayah Munro-Soldier excels at archery. Now she turns to hunting with a bow and arrow — something that will connect her to traditional Indigenous values and practices.
When Waasayah first heard of archery, the member of Swan Lake First Nation in Manitoba says she had no idea it was a sport in its own right. She was first intrigued by the archery hunting videos she saw online.
“When I first thought of archery, I guess I started growing into it, like naturally, and started getting into it more,” she said. declared. “When I started learning archery, I guess I started connecting [with] my ancestors, like when they shot bows and arrows, … made of wood and made arrows out of sticks.”
Waasayah, a Winnipeg resident, started taking archery lessons in the city when she was just 10 years old. Her first competition was a provincial tournament and she ended up winning medals for her prowess.
Now she is the only woman in her 3D archery team.
3D archery differs from regular archery in that there is an object to aim for, instead of just a target bullseye.
Although Waasayah says it’s weird being the only female on her team, she enjoys shooting with her teammates and aiming for the various 3D foam animals. She also mentored a boy her age on sports.
“I taught him some techniques and some tips,” she said. “And [how] to adjust your grip, your anchor, all that.”
The Grade 8 student says she loves tournaments and is training with hopes of attending the North American Indigenous Games in Halifax in the summer of 2023.
A connection to culture
Waasayah’s father, Reil Munro, says she really took off with the sport, but it started with a different interest.
“The most interesting thing for us is that when she first came to us and wanted to be an archer, her first words were that she wanted to be a hunter-gatherer,” said Munro.
“And then I asked how she wanted to harvest, and she said with a bow and arrow.”
Munro says her daughter’s accomplishments so far have made the family proud.
“When she started, here’s, you know, a little native girl, [with] braids and competing against a group of men,” he said.
Munro says Waasayah has also attended powwows since she was little and always had a competitive spirit. The family tries to encourage other families to consider the sport of archery.
“Archery has many benefits,” Munro said. “It helps her focus. Also, some of the teachings, you know, in the Indigenous culture that she practices with, you know, about respect…She has to respect what she’s trying to harvest. So , if she can respect the tools it will help her to respect the execution of these tools for a good harvest.”
Munro says the family is proud not only of Waasayah’s accomplishments, but also of how true to herself she is in the sport.
“She loves being out there and loves representing,” he said. “That’s another thing she’ll do: she represents…who she is as an Indigenous person. She’s got beads on her quiver and things like that, and people know when she shows up that she’s also an indigenous archer.”
Munro says that when it comes to his daughter’s progress and the eventual goal of becoming a hunter, there is no rush, especially given her young age. He encourages her to enjoy the process no matter what.
Waasayah, who is enjoying more success in the sport this year, was chosen 2021 Female 3D Archer of the Year by Archery Manitoba.
Dan Hudson of Archery Manitoba, his 3D provincial team coach, says the award is well deserved.
“She works very hard,” he said. “She takes criticism very well. She’s come a long way. She still has a long way to go, but she’s easy to coach and teach.”
Along with her scores, Hudson says Waasayah is a likeable team member who is great fun to coach.
“I hope she continues with archery,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll see a lot more of her in the future.”
Waasayah is also training to compete in the 2025 World Youth Archery Championships, which will take place in Winnipeg.
She says she feels really good about her accomplishments so far and was both happy and shocked to have been chosen for the Women’s Archer of the Year award.