58TH ANNUAL WORLD ESKIMO-INDIAN OLYMPICS
Watching the Knuckle Hop, Indian Stick Pull, or one of the many other games that are featured as part of the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics can make spectators
squirm in their seats. The athletic feats demonstrated in these events – designed to mimic the skills necessary for survival – are incredibly difficult to perform. The One-Foot High Kick, for instance, requires the athlete to balance perfectly on one leg, leap high into the air to hit a dangling target with that same leg, and then land gracefully and in control, again on that same leg. The refrain, “wow,” can be heard over and over.
Wow for WEIO.
This year’s 58th annual World Eskimo-Indian Olympics is set for July 18-21 in Fairbanks and promises once again to be a world-class event. Not only do athletes compete for top honors in more than
a dozen physical events, but there also are stunning dance performances, intricate art and crafts works for sale. It is a chance for Alaska’s communities to come together and share their culture with each other and the world.
“WEIO offers visitors the extraordi- nary opportunity to witness and partici- pate in the rich traditions of Alaska Na- tive culture,” says Deb Hickok, president and CEO of Explore Fairbanks. “WEIO warmly welcomes guests at this annual gathering of skilled athletes, talented craftspeople, dancers and drummers, and above all, families and friends.”
The first World Eskimo Olympics
was held in Fairbanks in 1961, draw-
ing contestants and dance teams from
Barrow, Unalakleet, Tanana, Fort Yukon,
Noorvik and Nome. The event was part
of the emerging Golden Days celebra-
tion, held in Fairbanks each summer.
Four Eskimo dance groups, two Indian
dance groups, and competitions in the
high-kick, blanket toss, seal skinning,
added with the Miss Eskimo Olympics
Queen Contest were held during that first
year. Exhibitions on the teeterboard and
Eskimo “piggyback” baby buggy show
rounded out the short program. From this
beginning, a diverse and complex format
encompassing four days was born. The
World Eskimo Olympics has grown from representing the sports of just a few communities, to celebrating those from across the state and even into Canada. Even the name changed (in 1973) to World Eskimo-Indian Olympics to more accurately reflect the ethnicity of the participants.
The games that are played today display the preparedness one needed for survival hundreds of years ago and even today. They require skill as well as strength, agility and endurance. Hundreds of years ago, the games were played to teach children that they had to be tough to make it on their own, not just in one area, but in all. The games left no part of the body untested.
Today, the WEIO games continue to be the high point of the year
for athletes. Records are broken almost every year. Awards are given to honor athletes and supporters.
The athletes vote among themselves for the recipient of the A. E. “Bud” Hagberg Memorial Sportsmanship Athletic Award, presented to the outstanding sportsperson exemplifying good sportsmanship. The Howard Rock Memorial Outstanding Athlete Award is another award given to the best athlete, and is chosen amongst the athletes.
The Frank Whaley Outstanding Contributor Award is presented to an individual or corporation who has demonstrated exemplary contributions of time, money and effort on an annual basis.
The World Eskimo-Indian Olympics kicks off with games begi ning at 11 a.m. Wednesday, July 18. The Arts and Crafts Fair will be open all day with a short break between daytime and evening sessions.