OSWEGO, NY – SUNY Oswego junior Meagan Big Snake will represent the Laker womenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ice hockey team, her college, her culture, her country and the Olympic spirit when she accompanies the worldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s most famous flame across Canada this winter.
Big Snake, a defender and co-captain for the Lakers, will serve as one of 11 youth flame attendants guarding and running with the Olympic torch on its cross-country trek.
She was one of six Aboriginal Canadians announced this week as playing key roles.
While back home in Siksika, Alberta, this summer, Big Snake saw big posters appear looking for nominees to run 300-meter stretches with the torch.
Big Snake asked her parents if she could apply, but they pretended to dissuade her – because her maternal grandmother Ellen Black already was submitting a nomination on her behalf.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“My grandma received input from my parents, my two younger sisters, my family and the communityÃ¢â‚¬Â in crafting the nomination, Big Snake said.
The letter so impressed officials that they sent it higher and, instead of becoming one of 12,000 torchbearers, Big Snake will join the small team accompanying the longest relay race to take place in any country.
The 106-day relay is presented by Coca-Cola and RBC and supported by the government of Canada.
Big Snake will fly to London, Ontario, the day after Christmas to join the torch relay as a guide and protector through its arrival in Vancouver for opening ceremonies on Feb. 12.
First Nation representation
The Vancouver Organizing Committee is emphasizing First Nation, Inuit and Metis representation in celebrating the 2010 games in Vancouver.
Big Snake is a member of the Siksika Nation, which is part of the Blackfoot Confederacy.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“To be nominated by your own communities and peers is a great honor,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Andrea Shaw, VANOCÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s vice president of sponsorship sales and marketing. Ã¢â‚¬Å“These Aboriginal men and women symbolize the best in all of us.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The involvement of First Nation representatives Ã¢â‚¬Å“shows the importance of the flame to the Aboriginals is so strong, and is similar to the Olympic spirit and the actual flame which signifies hope, peace and friendship,Ã¢â‚¬Â Big Snake said.
The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity means Big Snake will miss more than half the season for the Laker womenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ice hockey team, which last year made the playoffs in the rugged ECAC West conference in just the programÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s third season.
The 20-year-old daughter of Curtis and Maria Big Snake was elected co-captain this year.
A regular blue line contributor, she said her teammatesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ support for this endeavor has been Ã¢â‚¬Å“so awesome.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Big Snake, who became really interested in womenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hockey after the Canadian team won gold in the 2002 Olympics, knows this responsibility will cause her to miss nearly three weeks of classes in the spring semester but promised to do everything she can to work with her professors to make things as smooth as possible.
Guarding the flame
Attendants like Big Snake will guard and accompany the flame around the clock as it makes its 45,000-kilometer journey using modes of transport that will include seaplane, dogsled, Haida canoe, zipline and tall ship.
She will be part of the Ã¢â‚¬Å“envelopeÃ¢â‚¬Â around the runner with the flame, along with a security detail that includes the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Big Snake said.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We encourage them along the way and let them know itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s their moment,Ã¢â‚¬Â she said of the torchbearers.
At least one of those torchbearers will have a SUNY Oswego connection as well.
John Egan, a 1986 communications graduate who will carry the flame during day 100 from Whistler to Merritt, B.C., sent his regards to Big Snake after seeing a story about her as the lead article on Vancouver2010.com
A public justice major on the SUNY Oswego DeansÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ List, Big Snake realizes the importance of her role and all that she represents.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“This is so exciting because not only am I representing myself and my achievements, but my parents and my family who supported me, my community, the Aboriginals of my country and all over the whole world and especially Oswego State and the Lakers,Ã¢â‚¬Â Big Snake said.