First Nations Paralympic star and Métis coach join Hall of Fame

Tuesday, January 9th, 2024 2:36pm


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Richard Peter and Jacqueline Lavallee will be inducted into the North American Indigenous Athletics Hall of Fame in March.
By Sam Laskaris
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

One of the country’s most successful Paralympians and a former national team basketball player who has had an impressive coaching career are among the 2024 inductees into the North American Indigenous Athletics Hall of Fame.

This year’s list of inductees includes Richard Peter and Jacqueline Lavallee.

Peter, a member of Cowichan Tribes in British Columbia, competed in five Paralympic Games as a wheelchair basketball player. He won four medals (three gold, one silver) in those Games.

Lavallee, who is Métis, is a former member of the Canadian national women’s basketball squad. She also starred with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s team. After her playing days were over, Lavallee rejoined the Huskies as an assistant coach, a position she has held for the past 20 years.

Peter will be inducted via the Athlete category. And Lavallee will enter the hall of fame through both the Athlete and Coach categories.

This year’s list of 77 individual inductees was announced on Jan. 2. Those being honoured will be inducted via Athlete, Coach, Trainer, Builder, Official or Media categories.

Seven teams will also be recognized at this year’s induction ceremonies, scheduled for March 16 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

“It’s always a great honour to be inducted into a hall of fame, especially an Indigenous specific one,” said Peter, who is 51 and recently moved to Victoria, B.C.

Peter first competed at the Paralympic Games in 1996 in Atlanta. His team did not win a medal at that competition.

But Peter and his Canadian teammates captured the gold medal at the 2000 (Sydney), 2004 (Athens) and 2012 (London) Games. He also won a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics.

Though he won four medals at Paralympic Games, Peter said some of his most memorable career highlights include participating in both opening and closing ceremonies along with all the other Canadian athletes from different sports.

“Those are some of the best memories I have,” he said. “It’s a pretty unbelievable experience.”

Peter added he does not have a favourite Paralympic Games.

“Each Games is always very unique,” he said. “I got very fortunate to be able to attend five Games.”

And he tried to make the most of all of them.

“I always tried to enjoy the country, the culture and the food,” he said of his travels.

Peter is currently working as an Indigenous liaison for a pair of organizations.

He stresses he is not a researcher, but he works for the Praxis Spinal Cord Institute, formerly the Rick Hansen Institute.

He also raises awareness and promotes education for Spinal Cord Injury B.C., a non-profit organization that helps those with spinal cord injuries and related disabilities.

As for Lavallee, a member of Métis Nation – Saskatchewan, she played both for the Huskies’ basketball and soccer teams during her university days from 1996 to 2002.

She’s now in her 20th season serving as a coach for the Huskies’ hoops team.

“Obviously it’s pretty cool,” she said of her upcoming induction into the North American hall of fame. “I didn’t even know it existed and to be in it now is a huge honour.”

The North American Indigenous Athletics Hall of Fame was launched in 2022. The hall of fame is an online one which can be viewed here: 

Lavallee, who is 45, has also spent the past 20 years teaching at Oskayak High School, a school in Saskatoon that serves First Nations and Métis youth.

Though she’s had offers to join other university basketball programs in western Canada over the years, Lavallee said she’s content being an assistant to Huskies’ legendary head coach Lisa Thomaidis.

“The working relationship I have with Lisa is very good,” Lavallee said, adding she does miss the odd team practice or game if it interferes with a family commitment or with a game for one of her two children.

Lavallee has an eight-year-old daughter Kai and a 10-year-old son Sage. Both are currently playing for indoor soccer teams.

Lavallee said her children have also been involved with basketball, flag football and gymnastics programs.

During Lavallee’s coaching career with the Huskies her teams won national university championships in 2016 and 2020 and eight Canada West titles.

The Huskies have also appeared in their national tournament in 11 of the past 13 years.

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