Emily Mandamin is an Anicinaabe from Iskatewizaagegan #39 First Nation in Northwestern Ontario, affiliated with the Caribou Clan and bearing the traditional name Giiwedin Giizis, or Northern Sun. Currently enrolled at the University of Manitoba, Mandamin is an Indigenous athlete actively contributing to the Manitoba Bisons' basketball program. With a deep connection to tradition and ceremony, she has engaged in the Sundance ceremony and Jingle Dress dancing at powwows, drawing spiritual strength to pursue both athletic and academic aspirations.
A significant chapter in her journey involved expressing, at the age of 12, a commitment to leave home for high-level basketball—a decision that led to a full-ride scholarship during the pandemic which underscored her unwavering passion for the sport. As a young Indigenous female athlete, Mandamin grappled with underrepresentation and identity challenges, eventually immersing herself in "Rez Ball" with SwishNish in Kenora, Ontario. This experience fueled her determination to become the role model she lacked in her youth. Viewing sport as medicine and a way of life, she actively contributes to shaping the next generation by participating in coaching clinics, engaging with communities, and speaking at conferences.
She advocates for mental health and youth struggles, with the ultimate goal of securing a gymnasium in her homelands. Mandamin has already achieved the installation of a new outdoor basketball court in her home community, emphasizing the importance of providing every child with a place to play. In her insightful words: