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NYO Games encourage striving for your best

Elders report that the two foot high kick was done to communicate a successful or unsuccessful catch after hunting in the spring. Photo by Michael Dinneen, courtesy of NYO Games

For thousands of years and countless generations, survival for Alaska Native people depended not only on individual strength, skill and knowledge, but also on the ability to work together toward common goals. Traditional athletic contests and games helped develop these skills critical to everyday life in the challenging Alaska environment.

Today’s Native Youth Olympic Games carry on in this spirit, encouraging young people to strive for their personal best while helping and supporting their teammates, and even other teams. While today’s world is very different than when the games originated, the skills and values they instill are just as important now as then. NYO Games Alaska helps to develop healthy lifestyles, positive self-esteem, leadership and teamwork, while promoting good sportsmanship and fostering a better understanding between diverse communities and cultures.

This year’s NYO Games are April 25 to 27 at Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center in Anchorage. Admission is free. Events include kneel jump, wrist carry, Alaskan high kick, Eskimo stick pull, toe kick, one-hand reach, two-foot high kick, Indian stick pull, one-foot high kick, and seal hop. Cheer on athletes. Go and get inspired to play every day!

More than 2,000 students from more than 50 communities across Alaska participate in the Native Youth and Junior Native Youth Olympic Games each year. NYO is open to youth from all backgrounds.

Want to try this at home? Prepare for next year? The 2013 NYO Handbook includes demonstration photos and brief histories for the games.
University of Alaska Anchorage students enrolled in an internship with Cook Inlet Tribal Council’s NYO Games Alaska collected histories about the games:

The Alaskan High Kick was played inside in the winter to help develop coordination, upper body strength, and concentration, according athlete Nicole Johnston of Nome.

Donna Elliot of Bethel, a long time NYO participant and official, said the wrist carry shows the significance of a successful hunt and traditionally tests the strength and endurance of hunters and appreciation for the animal giving itself.

Shelia Randazzo of Shishmaref shared that the Toe Kick teaches individuals to be light on their feet, like when jumping from ice patch to ice patch. Read more histories.

For more information, visit Cook Inlet Tribal Council’s website. Click here for a schedule of events. Watch live on

And don’t forget, this is the final week of the April Healthy Futures Challenge. Be sure to complete and turn in your logs!