World Eskimo-Indian Olympics Begin Today

By Jonathan Adams Jul 16, 2008

An annual four-day event that began in 1961, the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics, provides Native Alaskan men and women an arena where communities come together to share culture and compete in traditional games. The games were started to preserve the the traditional skills–abilities that could have meant the difference between life and death–as lifestyles were changing.

For time immemorial, Native peoples of the circumpolar areas of the world have gathered in small villages to participate in games of strength, endurance, balance, and agility. Along with these athletic games, dancing, story telling, and other audience participation games took place. This provided an opportunity for friendly competition, entertainment and laughter. The hosts provided food and lodging, and visitors brought news from surrounding villages and expanded opportunities for challenge building and renewing old and new friendships.

Athletes and dancers from the Eskimo, Haida, Tlingit, Tsimshian, Aleut and Athabascan cultures participate in games where records are set every year like the Knuckle Hop, Ear Pull, and Blanket Toss (see descriptions of all events).