Juniper John heads to the North American Indigenous Games in Toronto this month to compete in rifle shooting. (Submitted photo)
It has been just over a year since Juniper John of Ahousaht first picked up a rifle and fired a shot a tin can; and, even though she missed her target, she was hooked on rifle shooting. And she’s taking her new sport to the next level – target shooting so that she can compete at the North American Indigenous Games being held in Toronto, Ontario this month.
Juniper was 13 years old when she was out hunting with her father, Kurt, and other family members near their Ahousaht home when she was offered her aunt’s rifle.
“We were out fishing and hunting when my dad let me try my Auntie Bonnie’s gun,” said Juniper. She fired at a can floating in the water and missed but she didn’t give up.
For her 14th birthday Kurt gave his daughter her own .22 rifle. She has used her rifle to catch ducks and geese. “Last winter I got my first seal; I was so happy,” she said.
The seal was cooked at home and elders from the community were invited to feast with the John/Atleo family.
“I am so proud of her,” said Kurt. “I get emotional and overwhelmed every time I see her doing target practice.”
Juniper has been getting target practise at a gravel pit near Ahousaht. Earlier this year her parents bought her a target shooting rifle. “It’s a Savage Mark II with peep sight,” said Juniper. It’s the type of rifle she will be using at the Rifle Shooting competition at NAIG.
Kurt told Ha-Shilth-Sa that he and Juniper’s mother, Anne Atleo, support her in anything she chooses to do. “Whether it's basketball, surfing, shooting a rifle or at home serving cold drinks from her small business, Juniper's Cool Ones,” he said.
Juniper’s Cool Ones is a concession stand offering smoothies, burgers, hotdogs and more. This is the third year Juniper has run the stand with help from her family. This year the proceeds from the business are going toward expenses for their trip to Toronto for NAIG.
Now age 15, Juniper had been helping to fundraise for her trip. “I have to raise $400 for my fee which covers my flight, accommodations and three meals a day,” said Juniper. Her parents have to pay for their own trip, accommodations and meals. The family will be leaving for Ontario on July 15.
The North American Indigenous Games is the largest continental sporting and cultural gathering of Indigenous people, welcoming more than 5,000 athletes, 2,000 volunteers.
Besides cultural activities it offers sporting events including archery, athletics, badminton, baseball, basketball, box lacrosse, canoe/kayak, golf, rifle shooting, soccer, softball, swimming, volleyball, and wrestling.
Opening ceremonies will be held July 16 and the entire event concludes July 23.