Native Village
Youth and Education news
 Volume 4  February 2011

New generations learn old way at Native games
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Alaska:  About 700 kids from Alaska -- some Native, many not -- competed in the annual Junior Native Youth Olympics. Named "Keeping Our Traditions Alive," the games taught students the old ways of Alaska's indigenous cultures.

Students competed in three age brackets: 5th and 6th graders, 3rd and 4th graders, and 1st and 2nd graders. They kicked, jumped, hopped or ran in traditional Alaska Native games.

But skill is not the only Native sports tradition. Everyone shows respect, support, and helps coach each other. When one girl bowed out of the Alaskan high-kick competition, her coach reminded her to shake the judge's hand.

In another game, boys were using balance and agility to kick a ball hanging overhead. When one boy struggled, a judge got down on the floor and showed him the right technique: plant one hand on the ground, use the other to grab the opposite foot, and then balance on the planted hand while using the other foot to kick the ball.

"They always say, 'Nice try,' 'Good job,' 'Have fun,' " said
Gabby, a 10-year-old athlete.

Junior NYO is a spinoff of
the Native Youth Olympics for high schoolers, which is held each spring. In turn, the NYO is a spin off of the WEIO, the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics, which is held each summer in Fairbanks.

The WEIO is the Super Bowl of Native sports.

Like its elders, Junior NYO teaches kids about Alaska's history and culture. It preserves and honors Native games that have been played for generations.

"Many are in awe of the reasons behind the games and realize these games had to be played to help people survive,"  said organizer Nicole Johnston, who added that the kids "have so much fun!"

Take the Alaskan high kick. Fun to watch and fun to try, but practical, too. The game was a way to develop balance, an important skill for surviving in an icy climate.

"They use those games to do their jobs," explained one student.

The games can help with life in the city, too.  Jayde has developed skills and confidence since she started doing Native sports in 4th grade. Now
in 6th grade, she won the girls Alaskan high kick by reaching a height of 5 feet, 1 inch -- an inch higher than the boys' winner.

"I make myself kick hard, and I believe I can kick it," she said. "

Editor's Note:  Call from World Eskimo Indian Olympics
July 20 -23, 2011
Fairbanks, Alaska
Seeking all former Miss WEIO queens and current world record holders for special ceremonies and celebrations at the 2011 WEIO 50th Anniversary celebrations.

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