Games of the North

About This Learning Center

This learning center is based on an educational unit written by Richard Goldstein for the Alaska Native Heritage Center. It depicts ten indigenous games from the Far North that were traditionally played within and between villages to test the skill, strength, and endurance of the people whose lives depended on hunting and gathering.

Although these games are competitive, there is a spirit of cooperation and community that lies at their heart. Please enjoy exploring the physical skills shown in these games while deepening your understanding of the Native people and the richness of their cultures.

Games of the North Film

(To order Games of the North, which will be available for puchase in the spring of 2011, visit

This Learning Center can accompanies a film, Games of the North, produced by Starseed Media, which will debut on PBS in the spring of 2011.

Teachers should show the film before teaching the games if at all possible.

The film will be helpful for students even if their teacher does not teach the unit, since it illustrates some techniques that will be helpful in learning the games.

Film Synopsis

Four athletes travel throughout Alaska competing in the ancestral indigenous games of strength, skill, and endurance. Acrobatic and explosive, these sports are vital for survival in the frigid Arctic. As waves of change sweep across their traditional lands, the competitors realize the games' role is more important than ever.

Major Competitions

The intense and continuing interest in the Games over the last 50 years has provided the impetus for three different organizations to establish statewide and international competitions.

World Eskimo Indian Olympics (W.E.I.O.)

An annual competition since 1961, WEIO draws contestants and dance groups from across Alaska and northern communities in Canada in a five-day celebration of games and events.

International Arctic Winter Games

Held every second winter since 1970 in a different circumpolar host nation, this international Olympic event draws athletes from Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Finland, Norway and Russia.

Native Youth Olympics

This annual spring highlight for Alaska high school students has been held since 1971. In 2008, more than 30 teams from every corner of the state journeyed to Anchorage to compete. There are no ethnic restrictions on competing in NYO.