The athletes of the Alaska Native games aren’t just returning to their roots. They’ve never left them. In this beautifully illustrated book, readers learn the history of twenty-five Native games that have been handed down through generations, how each one relates to the subsistence lifestyle, and how you can try them yourself, regardless of where you live.
As Tricia Nuyaqik Brown shows, even though today’s competitions are a big media event in Alaska, the games themselves are really no different from those of long ago. Ancestral communities once pitted their strongest, their most agile, their fastest men and women against those from neighboring villages or tribal groups. Those games never died, but rather than gathering in a sod meeting place, competitions are now held in gyms and arenas.
Each game today can be linked to some aspect of surviving in a harsh environment, of drawing sustenance from the land and sea. From the Seal Hop to the Bench Reach to the Four-Man Carry, these ancient games still require athletes to be in top physical condition and possess sharp mental focus. They hold dear the traditional Native values of honoring the elders, responsibility to tribe, sportsmanship, humor, patience, and hunter success. This book offers an engaging introduction to these games and their history, inviting people to jump in and try them for themselves!
Tricia Nuyaqik Brown has been writing and editing publications about Alaska since the early 1980s.
Joni Kitmiiq Spiess is an Iñupiaq woman born in Nome, Alaska, who has been a traditional games competitor, coach, and encourager to many.
Roy Corral is a veteran photographer whose work has appeared in books, magazines, and websites nationally, among them Alaska magazine, National Geographic, and Forbes.