In a sport usually dominated by men, 13-year-old Waasayah Munro-Soldier excels at archery. Now, she’s set her sights on hunting with a bow and arrow — something that will connect her to traditional Indigenous values and practices.
When Waasayah first heard about archery, the member of Swan Lake First Nation in Manitoba says she didn’t realize it was an actual sport. She was initially intrigued by archery hunting videos that she saw online.
“When I was first thinking about archery, I guess I started growing into it, like naturally, and started getting into it more,” she said. “When I started learning archery, I guess I started connecting [with] my ancestors, like when they shot bows and arrows, … made out of wood and made arrows out of sticks.”
Waasayah, a resident of Winnipeg, started taking archery lessons in the city when she was just 10 years old. Her first competition was a provincial tournament, and she ended up taking home medals for her prowess.
Now, she’s the only female on her 3D archery team.
3D archery differs from regular archery in that there’s an object to aim at, instead of just a targeted bull’s-eye.
Though Waasayah says it’s strange to be the only female on her team, she enjoys shooting with her teammates and aiming at the different 3D foam animals. She also mentored a boy her age on the sport.
“I taught him some techniques and some advice,” she said. “And [how] to adjust your grip, your anchor, all that stuff.”
The Grade 8 student says she enjoys tournaments and is training in hopes of attending the North American Indigenous Games in Halifax in the summer of 2023.
A connection to culture
Waasayah’s dad, Reil Munro, says she has really taken off with the sport, but it began out of a different interest.
“The real interesting thing for us was that, when she first came to us and wanted to be an archer, her first words were that she wanted to be a hunter-gatherer,” Munro said.
“And then I asked how she wanted to harvest, and she said with a bow and arrow.”
Munro says his daughter’s accomplishments so far have made the family proud.
“When she first started, here was this, you know, small Indigenous girl, [with] braids, and competing against a bunch of men,” he said.
Munro says Waasayah has also competed at powwows since she was a toddler and has always had a competitive spirit. The family tries to encourage other families to consider the sport of archery.
“There’s a lot of benefits to archery,” Munro said. “It helps with her focus. Also some of the teachings, you know, in Indigenous culture she practises with it, you know, about respect…. She has to respect what she’s trying to harvest. So if she can respect the tools of it, it’ll help her respect the execution of those tools for proper harvesting.”
Munro says the family is proud not only of Waasayah’s accomplishments but of how she is true to herself within the sport.
“She loves being out there and loves representing,” he said. “That’s another thing that she’ll do: She’s out there representing … who she is as an Indigenous person. She has beadwork on her quiver and things like that, and people know when she shows up that she’s an Indigenous archer as well.”
Munro says that when it comes to his daughter’s progress and the end goal of becoming a hunter, there’s no rush — especially given her young age. He encourages her to enjoy the process, no matter what.
Waasayah, who is enjoying more success in the sport this year, was chosen as the 2021 Female 3D Archer of the Year by Archery Manitoba.
Dan Hudson of Archery Manitoba, her 3D provincial team coach, says the award is well deserved.
“She works really hard,” he said. “She takes in criticism very well. She’s come a long way. She’s got more to grow, but she’s easy to coach and easy to teach.”
Aside from her scores, Hudson says Waasayah is a personable team member who is a lot of fun to coach.
“I hope she continues on with archery,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll see a lot more things from her in the future.”
Waasayah is also training to compete at the 2025 World Archery Youth Championships, which will be held in Winnipeg.
She says she feels really good about her accomplishments to this point and was both happy and shocked to be chosen for the female archer of the year award.