Arctic Winter Games a once-in-a-lifetime experience for Inuit kids

Kids from Team Nunavik-Quebec gather at the Meet & Greet event on March 13th. (Kativik Regional Government)
Kids from Team Nunavik-Quebec gather at the Meet & Greet event on March 13th.
(Kativik Regional Government)

By Gilda Salomone, Radio Canada International

Sixty-four young athletes from Nunavik, Que. are travelling to Fairbanks, Alaska this weekend to participate in the 21st Arctic Winter Games, an international sports competition for Northern athletes.

They will join hundreds of other athletes from five countries who will compete in 19 different sports, ranging from cross-country skiing and hockey to very unusual ones, such as the One Foot High Kick and the Snow Snake.

“The One Foot High Kick requires discipline, concentration … excellent body fitness and balance, and the kicks can go as high as over nine feet,” says Sarah Beaulne, communications officer for Team Nunavik-Quebec.

The event is a culmination of two years of training and competitions at local and regional levels.

“It’s a great achievement. The athletes also have a chance to live a once-in-a-lifetime experience, to make new friends and to compete on an international level, and this will mark them for the rest of their lives,” Beaulne says.

Billy Bodfish, from Wainwright, Alaska reaches for a skin ball suspended 66 inches off the floor during the one-hand reach competition at the Native Youth Olympics in Anchorage, Alaska, May 6, 2005. (AP Photo/Al Grillo, File) © AL GRILLO/AP

The Games help young athletes develop important skills that will serve them later on in their lives.

“They concentrate a lot on fair play and perseverance,” Beaulne adds.

Team Nunavik hopes to win some medals, but according to Beaulne, the most important thing is to give one’s best, regardless of the results.

Besides athletes, coaches and staff, five performers from the Kangiqsujuaq Brazilian Drummers will participate in cultural exchanges, daily performances and gala concerts at the games. They will bring a taste of the tropics to Alaska, via Quebec.

Sarah Beaulne, communications officer for Team Nunavik-Quebec, spoke with Gilda Salomone about the Arctic Winter Games. To listen, click here 

More information:

The Dene games were invented by the Dene, the aboriginal inhabitants of the Northern Regions of Canada and Alaska. Among the most popular Dene games played at the Arctic Winter Games are the Finger Pull, the Stick Gambling and the Snow Snake.

Arctic sports include traditional Inuit games, well known in northern Canada and Greenland, and some traditional sports from northern Russia. Some of the more popular Arctic sports are the One Foot High Kick, the Alaskan High Kick, the One Hand Reach , the Airplane.

External links:

Arctic Winter Games

Team Nunavik-Québec

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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