Northwest Indigenous skater takes front page of US magazine

Feature article shows 15-year old from Terrace as inspiration to North American readership

It’s taken more than just a pair of skates to keep Teysean’s feet on the ice.

Gitxsan-Tsimshian member Teysean Angeline Henry, 15, from Terrace will be featured on the front cover of Native Hoop, a popular US magazine showcasing Indigenous success.

“This young woman is amazing and she’s going to go far. She puts in the work, she goes through a condition on her heel that can be very painful and still skates through it,” says Joleen Brown, president of Native Hoop from her New Mexico office.

“In Indian country, many people would just give up but she doesn’t, she just keeps going.”

Brown says that 2018 has been a difficult year, especially for Indigenous people throughout the US and Canada. She wanted to reveal something positive in the magazine’s latest issue instead of more hardship. By including Teysean, she says she hopes the communities will have someone to look up to, and know that anything is possible.

The December cover of Native Hoop Magazine featuring Teysean Angeine Henry.

Native Hoop is a monthly magazine founded in 2009 with a readership in 37 countries. Ran as a non-profit, all the content is created by and about Indigenous North Americans, with the aim of promoting their talents in the 100-200 page magazine.

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Seven years ago Teysean was the first Canadian to be featured. The publication is now following up on her success since that first appearance.

Teysean says it’s been a difficult journey with skating but that she’s proud to be recognized, especially given her heritage.

“A lot of Natives don’t get this far in sports and they can’t really afford a lot,” says Teysean. “I feel like there’s a little bit of discrimination… (so) I see a lot of teenagers not believing in themselves, in anything, and putting themselves down.”

Teysean has been skating for nine years and has competed in numerous competitions throughout B.C, with an upcoming super series competition in Kelowna come March 2019.

But with costs of over $5,000 per year to keep her on the ice, her career is dependent on the continuous support from the broad First Nations’ community. Her family runs fundraisers year round and seeks out grants for lessons, competitions and costumes.

In the featured article, Teysean acknowledges her parents and everything they’ve done to keep her in the sport. Oftentimes, says Brown, families have financial troubles that keep them from enrolling their children into an extracurricular activity. She says she wanted to share Teysean’s story to help people see how they could still achieve their own goals.

“Being Native, it’s much harder for us to do things than it is for the average mainstream person. A lot of people don’t realize the work it takes to promote themselves or the work to get to these positions,” Brown says. “In some reserves, especially in some of the poorest ones, you don’t have opportunities for anything.”

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Teysean has a big fan base in Lax Kw’alaams (Port Simpson), which is her father’s hometown. Robyn Henry, her mother, says everyone there has been extremely supportive of her journey.

“We go back annually there and they all know her name, they’re our main source of fundraising,” says Robyn. “We held a big loonie auction and they almost paid for half of her skating year with one big fundraiser.”

She adds First Nations are very keen on encouraging their people and after continuously being asked about Teysean, she had to set up a Facebook fan page where she regularly posts announcements and content about her skating.

For Teysean, however, skating is not just twirls, jumps and title wins. According to Robyn, they originally put Teysean into the sport to overcome a severe anxiety disorder.

“When she was a pre-junior, the anxiety was almost to the point where she wasn’t talking to anybody,” says Robyn. “The coaches were shocked anytime she talked.”

She’s attended counselling for her anxiety and Robyn says it’s clear that skating has helped improve her condition.

“When I’m on the ice, I feel relief somehow and that I’m in my own world,” says Teysean.

She says that she hopes to make it to college with skating and has considered auditioning for Disney On Ice. But most importantly, she adds that she wants her fans to know anything is possible and to “not let anyone sabotage you just because of your culture.”

Her mother says that it’s been a surreal experience having this all happen to “normal people like us.”

”We feel like we’ve been working for a very long time just to keep her in skating — that’s all we’re trying to do.”

Teysean will be in this year’s Kla-How-Ya skating competition, an event that brings together all the skating clubs across northwest B.C. It will be hosted by The Terrace Skating Club at the Sportsplex from Nov. 30 – Dec. 2. The event is free for the public to attend.

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(Kailyn Larkin/Photo)

(Kailyn Larkin/Photo)

(Kailyn Larkin/Photo)

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