Editor’s Note: This post is from a press release provided by Explore Fairbanks.
The annual World Eskimo-Indian Olympic Games (WEIO) will take place at the Big Dipper Ice Arena at 1920 Lathrop Street in Fairbanks Wednesday-Saturday, July 21-24. A four-day series of traditional Alaska Native athletic competitions, WEIO draws Native athletes and dancers from around the state, the United States, Canada and Greenland, as well as visitors, fans and media from around the globe. In addition to athletic competitions, WEIO offers indigenous dances, authentic arts and crafts for sale, a Miss WEIO pageant, and other cultural activities.
The competitions at WEIO give men and women the chance to test their strength, agility, and endurance—all qualities needed to survive in the circumpolar north. Competitive games include the high kick, knuckle hop, ear pull, two-foot high kick, and Eskimo stick pull. Learn more about the games.
WEIO offers a chance to meet with old friends and distant relatives, to entertain and be entertained, challenge one another, and engage in friendly competition. For many competitors, WEIO is a way athletes and artists can showcase their skills and crafts and ensure that their culture is celebrated.
WEIO was created in 1961 in response to the rapidly spreading impact of western culture into rural areas. Two bush pilots, along with village elders and athletes, helped organize the first olympics, which included a blanket toss, seal-skinning contest and Miss Eskimo Olympics Queen contest. The event has since grown to more than 50 games with an ever-increasing number of athletes.
In addition to athletic events, WEIO is a time to don parkas, moose hide dresses and vests, mukluks and moccasins to compete in the parka and Indian dress contests and dance and tell stories through songs and motion. Dressed in kuspuks—traditional summer parkas—complete with feathered fans and drums, dancers perform throughout the four-day Olympics. Spectators and participants can browse through booths of authentic Alaska Native crafts and meet the artisans who carved, sewed or beaded the items.
For visitors, these olympics provide a rare chance to experience a culture alongside those who live within it.
The WEIO games are held on traditional Athabascan land.
For more information about the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics, visit weio.org.