Vying for The Gold in seal-skinning and knuckle hopping
Winners are starting to roll in from the 58th annual World Eskimo-Indian Olympic Games in Fairbanks, Alaska. So are the photos and videos of seal-skinning, muktuk eating and cute baby regalia contests.
The organization and games started out as a way to preserve Indigenous cultures in the Americas and narrowed down to keeping alive the Indigenous cultures and people in the “circumpolar north,” or the areas defined as arctic and subarctic. It was also created “in response to the rapidly spreading impact of western culture into rural areas.”
Native peoples participate in more than 50 games over the course of four days. The games focus on testing strength, agility, balance, hand grip, and stamina to pain; all the skills needed to survive in the circumpolar north.
The athletic events include the Alaskan high-kick, kneel jump, knuckle hop or seal hop, ear pull, one- and two-foot high kick, Eskimo stick pull, blanket toss, seal-skinning, four-man carry, ear weight, ear pull, drop the bomb, and more.
Records are being broken and firsts are being made.
The nalukataq, or blanket toss, had their first female competitor ever.
One fun game that anyone can participate in is the muktuk eating where competitors must provide their own knife.
A Miss Eskimo Olympics Queen is also crowned during the games. Kaylene Iñuuraq Evans was the 2018 Miss WEIO.
Contestants spend one week competing against each other in personal interviews, talent presentations, an impromptu question session, and Indigenous language. They are judged on their answer, personality, knowledge of culture and language, confidence, presentation, poise, and knowledge of WEIO and Native issues. Winners receive a scholarship for college and serve as an ambassador for their people and the organization.
What’s so great about the games, too, is athletes and spectators wear their moccasins, parkas, moose hide dresses, vests, mukluks, and more, especially during performances.
Here some photos of the event last year.
Browse through more photos of the games provided by the games organization.