Nearly 500 high school students from 50
Alaska communities are coming to Anchorage from April 29 to May
1 to compete in the Native Youth Olympics at the Denaina Center.
The NYO Games, as theyre now called, is open to Natives and
non-Natives from the 7th grade to seniors in high school. Its
an event that showcases Alaskas cultural heritage, based on
games that past Alaska Natives played to help them hone their survival
skills and form the necessary communion between mind and body that
was required to survive the states rugged, oft-brutal terrain
The NYO Games celebrate the fundamental
skills that Alaska Natives built upon from early adolescence through
adulthood. The competitions were used to test their hunting and
survival skills, to increase their strength and endurance, and to
create agility both in their physical bodies as well as in their
Lets take a look at some of the
events that will be featured in the 41st NYO Games and their relationship
to the skills Natives needed to survive in the wilds of Alaska:
Eskimo Stick Pull: This is a game of strength, based upon
the needs of the hunters who had to be strong enough to pull a seal
out of freezing water. Two athletes sit facing each other and pull
on a stick, each trying to pull their opponent toward him without
jerking the stick. Much like tug-of-war, the muscle groups required
to excel at the Eskimo Stick Pull are far more then just arm strength.
One must have strong hands, back and leg strength, as well as balance.
Pulling a seal from icy water while balancing yourself on snow and
ice wasnt easy, the Eskimo Stick Pull, while surely easier
then that effort, is still a great test of strength.
The One-Hand Reach:
A hunter in a kayak had to have great body control. Tipping your
canoe could lead to frostbite, among other disasters. This event
is a test of a competitors body control in this spirit, as
theyre asked to hold their body wait up with just one hand
pressed on the floor.
Wrist Carry: This event is based on very origins of Native
Alaska hunting. Hunters had to work on not only their strength,
but endurance, as they were required to carry heavy game over long
distances. In the Wrist Carry, a competitor has his wrist draped
over a stick and has to hold him or herself off the ground while
two teammates carry the competitor as far as possible around an
oval track until he or she can no longer hold on.
The Alaskan High Kick:
Considered the most acrobatic event in the competition, a competitor
has to kick a ball suspended overhead while balancing on a single
hand. This requires mind-body control, managing to keep yourself
balanced in preparation for, and throughout, the kick. The competitor
who kicks the highest target wins.
The Seal Hop: A
competition of pure endurance, with athletes hopping across the
floor using only their hands and toes, essentially doing pushups,
one after another, with the person traveling the farthest distance
winning. This game originated with the hunters who imitated the
movements of seals.
The One-Foot High Kick:
The headline event of the games, competitors jump off both feet
in an attempt to kick a ball suspended high in the air with one
foot, landing on that same foot. Last years event was won
by Anchorages Andrew Walker, who kicked 104 inches (88?),
while Wasilas Alice Strick won on the girls side and
set a world record, kicking at 91 inches.