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Native Pathways to Education
Alaska Native Cultural Resources
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THE GAMES

 

The games described below occur at WEIO, AWG, AND NYO (WEIO Inc. Publications, 1995, AWG, 1995, and 25th Anniversary Statewide NYO Program, 1995)

One Foot High Kick: Consists of the athlete jumping off both feet simultaneously, kicking a ball with any part of one foot, and returning to the floor maintaining balance on the kicking foot. Falling or landing on both feet, or the opposite foot will nullify the jump. Hopping on one foot is okay while maintaining balance. The height of the suspended ball will begin at 54 inches for girls and 72 inches for boys. Three attempts at each height will be given to each athlete. The ball will be raised at four inch increments. When there are three athletes left, the ball will be raised in one inch increments. The winner is the athlete who touches the ball at the highest elevation. The game originated from hunting parties in the North. If the hunt was successful the hunter would signal by doing the one foot high kick, once he was insight of the village.

Kneel Jump: Consists of an athlete kneeling behind a line, sitting on his heels. The athlete then leap forward from a kneeling position, landing on both feet simultaneously and remain in that position without moving his feet or using his hands to maintain balance. Each athlete will be allowed three jumps. The winner is the athlete who jumps the farthest. This game was also used by the hunter to develop quick movements and success in jumping from ice floe to ice floe, as well as developing leg muscles needed to lift heavy game off the ground and carry it back to the village.

One Hand Reach: Consists of the athlete balancing his body on both hands in a squat position. Once the balance has been attained he will reach out with one hand in an attempt to touch a suspended ball. At the same time he will bring the free hand back down to the floor before any other part of his body touches the floor. Control is stressed. The height of the suspended ball will begin at 34 inches for girls and 44 inches for boys. Three attempts at each height will be given to each athlete. The ball will be raised at two inch increments and reduced to one inch increments when three competitors remain. The winner is the athlete who touches the ball at the highest elevation. This game tests the control of one's body and basic balance and endurance used in hunting.

Stick Pull: Consists of two athletes sitting on the floor facing each other with the soles of their feet touching. Both athletes must have their feet parallel and together with bent knees at approximately 45 degrees. A stick 20 inches long and 1 1/4 inches in diameter is placed above their feet . The athletes place their hands on the stick palms down. The athletes then begin to pull, trying to pull their opponent steadily toward him without jerking. No changing of the grip or regripping the stick is allowed once the pulling begins. The winner is the athlete who successfully out pulls their opponent two out of three rounds of competition. The game originated from the hunting activity of pulling a seal out of the water. Leg, back, and hand strength are necessary for a success. This game is of strength.

Knuckle Hop or Seal Hop For Boys: Consists of several heats with six athletes in each. Each athlete will begin in a lowered push up position (bent elbows tucked close to the body, first knuckles down, and hands having fingers curled underneath so that the individual is supported by the heel of his hand and first knuckles.) The athlete will remain in this position and hop across the floor on his hands and toes only. All athletes will begin at the same time. Disqualification may occur if the athlete stops and restarts; straightening his arms; touches the floor with his chest, knees, or stomach; or moves from the spot where the he stops before the distance is measured by a judge. The winner is the athlete who travels the farthest distance without stopping. This game originated from the hunter imitating the movement of a seal during the hunt. This game is to see just how far one can go on determination and endurance.

Knuckle Hop or Seal Hop For Girls: Consists of several heats with six athletes in each heat. Each athlete will be in a push up position with their arms straight, palms down flat. The athlete will remain in this position and hop across the floor on her hands and toes only. Her rump will not be at a higher position than her shoulders at any time. All athletes will begin at the same time. Disqualification may occur if the athlete stops and restarts; raises her rump above her shoulders; touches the floor with her knees or stomach; or moving from the spot where the athlete stops before the distance is measured by a judge. The winner is the athlete who travels the farthest distance without stopping. This game originated from the hunter imitating the movement of a seal during the hunt. This game is to see just how far one can go on determination and endurance.

Two Foot High Kick: Consists of the athlete jumping off of both feet simultaneously, kicking a ball with one or both feet while both feet or heels are parallel and touching, and landing on both feet simultaneously while maintaining balance. Hopping on both feet is okay while maintaining balance. Falling or landing on one foot will nullify the jump. The height of the suspended ball will begin at 46 inches for girls and 50 inches for boys. Three attempts at each height will be given to each athlete. The ball will be raised at two inch increments. When there are three athletes left the ball will be raised in one inch increments. The winner is the athlete who touches the ball at the highest elevation. This game came from the excitement the hunters exhibited after the hunt. It developed into a game to see how high the hunters could jump. Some describe the game that if the hunt was unsuccessful the men would do a two foot high kick instead of a one foot high kick.

Arm Pull: Consists of two athletes sitting on the floor facing each other, positioning themselves so that one leg crosses over the opposite leg of the other player. They lock arms at the elbows with fists down, and when given a signal from a judge, begin pulling straight back, no jerking or regripping allowed. The winner of two out of three attempts wins the match. This game was developed as a show of strength and provided entertainment while on the hunt.

Wrist Carry: Consists of two people carrying an athlete on a 48 inch long, 1 5/16 inch diameter stick.. The carriers will place the stick in front of the athlete who is sitting on the floor. The athlete will position his wrist (either right of left) in a hook position around the middle of the stick, placing the free hand around the forearm. The athlete's hand or wrist cannot touch his face for support while being carried. The athlete's legs can be in a crossed legged position, or however the athlete feel is an appropriate sitting position. The pace is approximately one step per second. The athlete who travels the furthest distance wins. This game's origin is traced back to successful hunters carrying game back to their villages. The hunters had to develop strength and endurance to carry the game over long distances.

Scissor Broad Jump: Consists of the athlete standing, with both feet behind the starting line. The athlete begins by jumping both feet at the same time with a landing on one foot. This is followed by another jump crossing feet in mid-jump, landing on the free foot. Next, jump from this position, landing solid on both feet without leaning forward or backward. Continuous movement is required throughout. The athlete with the longest attempt wins. This game developed during seal and walrus hunts, where the hunter had to develop balance and quick reflexes in order to jump from one ice floe to another, as the ice was shifting in the water.

Alaskan High Kick: Consists of the athlete in a starting position on the floor. His right foot is on the floor. His left hand is on the floor behind his body for balance. His right hand grasps his left toes. The athlete kicks the target with his right foot landing on the same foot. No portion of the body can touch the floor. The height of the suspended ball will begin at 26 inches for girls and 36 inches for boys. Three attempts are allowed at each height. The athlete who kicks the target at the highest height is the winner. The game is a test in controlling one's body using both mind and body together to maintain that control.

Additional games at the 1995 WEIO are described below (WEIO Inc. Publications, 1995):

Race of the Torch: This is the traditional opening competition for WEIO. Competitors complete the prescribed course and are required to pass all check points. The first athlete to cross the finish line will be the winner and will be given a lighted torch from which the Olympic Lamps will be lit.

Queen Competition: This competition is open to Native women 18 to 25 years of age. Contestants compete for the coveted black baleen and white ivory crown and are judged on their knowledge of traditional native culture, poise, self-confidence, personality, attitude and general appearance.

Eskimo and Indian Dance Competitions: Consists of various Eskimo and Indian Dance groups performing different dances. Each dance carries within it a story or legend.

Greased Pole Walk: Consists of athletes walking on a horizontal greased pole while barefooted. The athlete who goes the furthest distance without falling off is the winner.

Fish Cutting Competition: Competitors fillet a fish, remove the backbone and notch the fish for drying. Athletes will be timed and judged for neatness.

Nalukatuk (Blanket Toss): Requires the athlete to jump on the blanket with form and balance. Acrobatics is allowed but no points are given. The highest height, best form and balance jump by an athlete wins.

Muktuk Eating Contest: Requires the competitor to eat as quickly as possible the piece of muktuk given to them. The first one done is the winner.

Ear Pulling Contest: Requires the athletes to pair off against one another with a loop of string placed over the same ear of each competitors in the face-off. The competitors face each other. No jerking is allowed and one must use a steady pull straight back and try to make to other person give in. This is a test of strength and endurance.

Four-Man Carry: Requires the athlete to lift and carry four men with an average weight of 150 pounds. The men to be carried will place their arms around the athletes neck in such a manner as to place the weight on his shoulder and not choke him. One man on each side, one in front, one in the back. No straps are allowed. The athlete who carries the four men the farthest wins.

Indian Stick Pull: Consists of two athletes sitting on the floor facing each other holding onto a stick with one hand. The free hand must be on the other athlete's ankle. At a given signal both athletes begin to pull the stick without jerking or twisting but only a straight, direct pull. The athlete who out-pulls the final challenger wins.

Drop The Bomb: Consists of the athlete beginning from a position face down on the floor, legs and feet straight, arms extended at right angles to the body. Three assistants, designated by the officials, will lift the athlete completely off the floor (the assistant holding ankles and wrist.) Each athlete will be carried over a given course, with limbs rigid and fully extended. The attempt will be judged completed when the athlete is no longer able to hold the rigid position.

Eskimo Stick Pull: Consists of the two athletes sitting on the floor facing each other with feet touching. The stick is held over both athlete's toes. One athlete holds the stick in the center with his hands together while the other athlete's hands are on either side of his opponent's. Each athlete uses a steady pull straight back trying to pull the opponent directly to him or the stick away from the opponent. No twisting, jerking or regripping the stick is allowed. This game is based on the skill of grabbing and holding onto a fish.

Toe Kick: Consists of an athlete standing with his feet together, jumping forward touching both toes to a target, kicking the target backward, then continuing forward to complete the jump, landing on both feet and maintaining balance. His toes must not touch the floor when kicking the target. The athlete who jumps the furthest distance and kicks the target wins.

White Men vs. Native Women Tug Of War: This is an enjoyable tug of war event between white men and Native women. The Native women have been very successful at winning this event.

Parka and Indian Dress Competitions: Consists of a parade of traditional parkas and Indian dresses modeled for the enjoyment and delight of the audiences. They are judged on authenticity, styling, and craftsmanship.

Additional games from the 1996 AWG are described below: (AWG, 1996)

Arctic Sports (Traditional Inuit and Dene [Indian] Games):

 

Traditional Inuit:

Airplane: Starts with the athlete lying face down on the floor with his legs and feet together and his arms extended at right angles to his body. His shoulders should be at the starting line. The athlete makes his body firm and rigid. Three other people, one on each arm and one on his legs, hold just the wrist or ankles. They lift the athlete up about waist height and begin to carry the athlete around the rectangle as if the athlete was an airplane. The athlete is finished when he can no longer hold his body rigid. The winner is the one who was carried the longest distance. This strength event originally tested the strength of the carriers. The game came from hunters having the ability and endurance to carry game from the beach up to the tundra. The game now focuses on the person being carried and the distance they can maintain their position.

Head Pull: Starts with two athletes lying on the floor on their stomachs and facing each other. A leather thong is placed around the back of both of the athletes heads just above the ears. Both athletes raise their bodies to a "push-up" position with only hands and feet touching the floor. On the signal from the judge, both athletes pull with their heads against the other bracing their hands and using their whole body strength to pull steadily backwards, parallel to the floor. The winner is the one who pulls his opponent across the line parallel to the center line, if the opponent drops their head allowing the loop to be pulled off, or if any of the opponent's body, other that hands and feet touches the floor.

Dene (Indian) Games:

Snowsnake: Starts with the athlete grasping the straight spruce stick (about 150 cm long and 2 cm in diameter and sharpened at one end), running up to the throwing line, then throwing the stick underhand so that it slides over the snow as far as possible. Each athlete has three attempts. The winner is the one who throws the snowsnake the longest distance. This game was originally based on the need to develop hunting skills. Hunters used this style of weapon to bring down moose or caribou.

Stick Pull: Starts with two athletes standing with one's hip of his pulling side facing the hip of the opponent's pulling side. A stick about 30 cm long and 2 1/2 cm in diameter is grasped by both athletes so that their thumbs and index fingers faces each others. A line is drawn on the floor. On signal the athletes pull with a steady pull, trying to pull the stick out of the opponent's hand. No body contact is allowed. One must not try to twist or turn the stick from the opponent. The winner is the one who wins two out of three attempts by pulling the stick from the hand of the opponent, or if one pulls the opponent across the line. This game is based on traditional Indian skills of grabbing and holding onto a fish.

Pole Push: Starts with a pole of about 5 meters long by 10-15 cm in diameter. A circle about 7 meters in diameter is also marked off. Two opposing teams try to push forward on the pole pushing the other out of the circle. Teams must push forward at all times and are not allowed to swing the pole or to let go. A team member is not allowed to move up on the pole to avoid being pushed out. The best two out of three pushes wins the match. This is an Indian game which origins come from pushing heavy boats into the water.

Finger Pull: Starts with two athletes sitting facing each other. With one athlete's right leg bent, and the opponent's feet are braced against the first athlete's right shin. As the first athlete leans slightly backwards, bracing his elbow against his right thigh, and places his hand on the opponent's left knee. The opponent braces their left hand on the first athlete's left shoulder and then both lock middle fingers. On a signal, both pull slowly and steadily. No jerking, twisting, or regripping is allowed. The object is to pull the opponent's arm out slightly or to cause them to straighten their finger or to otherwise signal giving up. This game was originally played with a piece of string and pull pegs held with the forefingers. This is now a game of fun and endurance.

Hand Games: Starts with teams taking turns hiding 12 tokens (small sticks about 2 and a 1/2 cm long) and the other team tries to guess which hand they are holding the token in. The game is usually accompanied by drumming. Each player on the hiding team hides a token in one hand or the other. Then presents their hands for the other team to see, while trying to deceive them with elaborate gestures of the hands, arms, head, and upper body. The team which gains all 12 sticks wins that game. The hand games were originally part of story telling in the villages. The idea was to keep the audiences attention on the story being told.

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Last modified August 14, 2006