The Many Guns Family including Jeannette Many Guns Centre

The recent grand opening of the new Many Guns Boxing and Fitness Centre on the Siksika First Nation marks the start of a journey toward a long- term goal of healing, connecting bodies and spirits, and promoting physical wellness.

After delays and the pandemic crises the opening of the Boxing and Fitness centre is a welcome relief for members of the Siksika Nation, just an hour southeast of Calgary.

Dr. Quintina Bearchief-Adolpho, mental health clinical team lead for Siksika Health Services, told the Calgary
Herald News that the facility will serve many purposes for the community, not the least of which is physical activity to promote positive mental health.

Clifford Many Gun

“Because of trauma, we have a lot of addictions in our community (and) we were trying to think of ways that would help our community in the long term,” she said. “There’s a lot of research around exercise and how it impacts mental health and how it impacts it positively.”

Bearchief-Adolpho said boxing in particular presents participants with an opportunity to “connect mind and heart.”

“This would allow a person to be able to understand their emotions, be able to express their emotions,” she said.

“They’re able to have cognitive flexibility, their executive functioning would increase and they’d be able to resolve issues that they might have been deal- ing with for a long time.”

In addition to dealing with the isolation of COVID-19 over the past year and a half, community members are also having to face the recent discov- eries of unmarked graves at former residential school sites across the coun- try, as well as the ongoing intergenerational trauma caused by that school system.

“We’re hoping people will be able to utilize the gym as an outlet to provide more of a healthy kind of intervention, versus self medicating,” she said. “We hope that this will help individuals be able to overcome some of their challenges that they’re facing with issues stemming from COVID and every- thing surrounding the (residential school) issues.”

Bearchief-Adolpho also wanted to name the centre after the late Clifford Many Guns because of how he helped the youth of the reserve and was the leading force for the boxing on the Siksika Nation for many decades
The centre’s therapeutic physical trainer, Manny Yellow Fly, said the gym’s namesake, the late Clifford Many Guns, will serve as an inspiration for staff and clients.

Yellow Fly said although Clifford was a guy who influenced boxing and promoted it, he was also a guy that played pretty much every sport.

“He coached a lot of sports and brought a lot of good values to the commu- nity and I hope to use Many Guns’ mentality especially to have a positive effect on the Nation’s youth,” Yellow Fly added, “I can incorporate the boxing mentality, the val- ues and characteristics that come with boxing, like perseverance, (positive) attitudes, hard work . . . and kind of blend them together.”

In addition to camps and other programming specifically for youth there will also be opportu- nities for elders to take part in various activities. Yoga, CrossFit and other fitness classes will be incorporated into the centre in the future.

Jeannette Many Guns, the youngest daughter of Clifford said, “It’s the right time by naming the sports and fitness centre after her father.

“We the Many Guns family are all very proud, honoured, and very thankful to have the boxing and fitness centre named after our Dad. It is with great comfort to know that his legacy will continue,” said Many Guns. “My dad would have continued training boxers from the reserve, he wanted the best to succeed. There are a lot of gifted athletes on the reserve that can be world champions.”

Many Guns said she was glad to see a good turn out at the grand opening

“It is a part of his legacy he would want to continue. He saw that fitness and health was important and that it can continue through this new centre. My Dad had many talents and through his “Go to attitude” to get things done will continue on through the art of boxing.”

With the official opening of the centre, Bearchief-Adolpho said opportuni- ties for healing and for community members to get a better handle on their health, both mental and physical, are plentiful.

“If we can heal the physical self then we’re able to discover the underlying issues, mental-health issues that are occurring . . . I have a lot of hope that this can have a positive impact in our community.”