Tuesday, June 22, 2010

2010 World Eskimo-Indian Olympics

We had an amazing time at the games! Noor was treated to lots of wonderful stories by participants and artisans.  The drumming and singing was poweful and Noor really enjoyed participating.

The first games were held, officially, in the early 1960s.  The following is from the WEIO website:
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. This is the background of the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics and the atmosphere, which we seek to replicate.
Survival for the Native people of Alaska has been the name of the games for as long as our elders can recollect. When listening to them tell of their early life, it sometimes seems inconceivable they managed at all. These stories constantly reiterate the need to be disciplined physically as well as mentally, to share, cooperate, and to hold a reverence for the source which makes it possible to survive in an environment which is severe in every sense of the word. These people lived off what nature provided. They hunted, fished, and gathered plants for food, clothing, and medicinal purposes. In all of these instances they had to be strong and agile, and able to endure past normal limits of strength and pain. In winter or summer, one had to prepare to be tested at any moment, and to fail could easily be the difference between life and death.

This is a game of balance where the athlete sits on the floor below a target with one hand grasping the opposite foot. With his/her remaining free hand planted on the floor, the athlete springs up and attempts to kick the target with the free foot. After kicking the target, the athlete must show balance upon landing - he/she is at the original position before kicking. Height is the objective.

Michael helped "pull" the blanket for the Blanket Toss.  It was made in 1964

Several walrus skins are used for this event. The skin has holes on the edges so that rope can be looped through all the way around and used for handle grips. One person gets in the middle of the skin and stands there while being tossed. With a good coordinated effort on behalf of the pullers, the person being tossed can get as high as thirty feet in the air and lands on his/her feet without falling down. This is quite similar to a trampoline, with the only difference being that people are the springs and they can move to catch an errant jumper.
The Nalukataq is done in the whaling communities in the spring if there has been a successful whaling season. It is been part of the whaling feast activity as long as people can remember.
There are two schools of thought as to why this sport is being done. One is for the simple exhilaration is provides, and the other is for spotting game over the horizon. The judges look at balance, height, movements in the air - sometimes you can see jumpers dancing or running in place - and all around form and grace when determining a winner. Sometimes, flips and somersaults are done to the delight of the pullers and spectators.
During Christmas, jumpers used to throw candy and other goodies from their height above the children.

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