WORLD ESKIMO-INDIAN OLYMPICS -
From time immemorial, Native people of the Arctic have gathered in
small villages to participate in games of strength, endurance,
agility, and concentration. Along with competitive activities
requiring physical prowess; dancing, story-telling and cultural games
for entertainment were also integral parts of these informal events.
These gatherings provided an opportunity for friendly competition as
well as entertainment as the hosts supplied food and lodging while
the visitors brought news from surrounding villages. Friendships were
built and renewed.
This is the historical precedent of the WEIO. The games are
opportunities for the elders to pass on their knowledge to the youth.
These games teach balance, cooperation, strength, agility,
concentration, endurance, and speed; qualities often important to
survival in a traditional life style. Although some games have two
people opposing each other, they do not encourage competition as much
as encourage the youth to meet their own goals.
WEIO were created from an idea by Frank Whaley, a Wien pilot,
whose plane had a mid-winter break down in Point Hope in the 50's.
During his stay, Whaley watched the traditional games, storytelling,
dancing, and feasting which took place during the Christmas season.
He told Sam Hopson, a co-worker for Wien, some other pilot friends,
Bud Hagberg, Bill English, and Tom Richardson stories about those
months at Point Hope. Frank realized that this "changeless empire"
(Lund, 1986) could not remain untouched much longer. He and the
others were concerned about the encroachment and pressure on the
Inupiat culture by the non-natives. They convinced Wien Airlines and
the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce to help sponsor the WEIO games in
conjunction with the "Golden Days" celebration. The first games were
held on the banks of the Chena River in Fairbanks, Alaska in 1961. At
that time, they were known as World Eskimo Olympics drawing
contestants from Barrow, Unalakleet, Tanana, Fort Yukon, Noorvik, and
Nome. In 1973, the Tundra Times board of Directors, which assumed
sponsorship of the Olympics in 1970, changed the name of the World
Eskimo Olympics to the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics. Today, they are
an integral part of the movement to help preserve Native Culture and
history in Alaska. The 1995 WEIO was held in mid-July, but in other
years it occurred in early August.