Archery wasn’t Brianna Stelkia’s first choice of sports when she was a kid, but the promising young Osoyoos Indian Band archer loves it none the less.
“I was diagnosed with a disease in my knees, so I had to quit all running sports and all kinds of the other sports I used to do,” Stelkia said. “Because I live on the reserve, I found there was this sport archery and I just tried it out and I enjoyed it so much.”
The 14-year-old has osteochrondritis dissecans, a disease that affects the bones in her knees. Diagnosed when she was eight years old, she looked for another sport that she could take up and archery fit perfectly. The conversion in activity worked out to her benefit, as the teenager has travelled B.C. competing in tournaments and just returned from the 2020 BC Winter Games in Fort St. John where she placed fourth out of over 40 athletes.
“It was an amazing experience. It was one of the most exciting things I’ve been to. I never knew it was that big of a thing,” Stelkia said.
She’s got her sights set on even bigger things soon. The North American Indigenous Games take place in Halifax in June this year, and the Osoyoos Indian Band athlete is well on her way to making it to the international event.
To get to the Indigenous Games, contestants from bands all over the province must submit scorecards each week. The scorecards, Stelkia explained, work on a points system to rank the archers based on their results. Each card consists of ten rounds with three arrows shot by each archer per round for a total score out of 300. The archers with score cards closest to 300 will represent B.C. Indigenous athletes at the 2020 games.
Stelkia herself is from the Osoyoos Indian Band and grew up on the reserve. She feels like her archery connects her to that ancestry because of its connection to traditional ways of hunting.
“I got really into it and then I realized it’s close to what we used to do in the olden days and it was something people used to use for their food,” said Stelkia. “That’s when I thought I might as well stick with it because it’s such an amazing sport.”
She loves how she feels when she’s shooting, describing how it makes her “feel really calm,” and nice and relaxed. And she doesn’t plan on giving it up anytime soon.
“From the first time I shot a bow I just loved it so much,” she said. “I’m planning on sticking with it for a while and just seeing how far I can make it. My coach said there’s an opportunity to go to the Olympics. I just want to see how far I can make it.”
Brianna would like to thank many people for her success so far, including her extended family, friends, her coaches Ron and Mary Ostermeier, and all the others like the Osoyoos Indian Band for their continued support and guidance in her archery career. Keep an eye out for her name, as well as other Osoyoos Indian Band athletes, in the results of the North American Indigenous Games.
Sophie Gray, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Osoyoos Times