I hear this a lot when I am walking about home and our awesome crazy events that happen in my hometown….So, what is WEIO?
WEIO is World Eskimo-Indian Olympics!
This happens every summer in mid July in Fairbanks and it is a gathering of Olympics games, these particular games are based off of original sustenance tactics of hunters and gatherers from ancestors that was passed from generation to generation. Now those same tactics are honored in this Olympic event!
This entire week isn’t just about athletic competitions – it is about educating and honoring the cultures of ALL these native regions represented here. Native cultures are so excited to celebrate and share their traditions with the tourists who visit, locals or “town residents”, or to anyone willing to listen to their stories and traditions.
The photos above are showing some of the vendors making their product in the most traditional ways. When you walk up to many of these booths you smell the rich smell of tanned hides, colors jump out at you with the intricate bead work – beads made up of glass, porcupine quills, whale bone beads, everything is made up FROM the land.
Throughout the four-day event at the Carlson center displays Native wear regalia, dance competitions, singing competitions and of course, the athletic competitions too.
All of the athletic competitions are all based off hunting and gathering techniques that have been used to substance for generations.
The Seal Hop: (photographed above) This is a game of endurance to pain and a testing of strength. The object is to see how far one can go in a “push-up” position, with elbows bent and knuckles down. The only parts of the body touching the floor are knuckles and toes. From this position, the participant “hops” forward as far as possible keeping the back straight and elbows bent.
The Ear Pull: (photographed above) Is a game of stamina to pain, the victor demonstrates he/she can withstand pain, a trait sometimes needed to survive the harsh realities of the North. Two people will begin a “tug-of-war” with their ears to see who the winner is.
The One Toe and Two Toe Touch competitions: (photographed above) Traditionally the coastal whaling villages would use these kicks as a form of communication. When a whale or other game has been taken, a messenger would run back toward the village and when within sight distance the messenger would jump and kick both feet into the air, signaling the people of the village that a whale or other game has been caught and to prepare themselves to help the hunters.
NALUKATAQ (BLANKET TOSS): (Photographed above)
The Blanket toss or Nalukataq was designed to have fun after a successful whaling season. During the Nalukataq celebration, usually held in June, the whaling crews throw candy from the blanket. The tradition has been adapted to the tourist community so they can have fun when they visit a northern Eskimo community. This blanket is made out of an old whaling skin boat. Boats are made of bearded seal skin (aged with hairs taken off) or split walrus skin (depending on the village). The skin blanket then has holes on the edges so that rope can be looped through all the way around and used for handle grips. One person gets in the middle of the skin and stands there while being tossed. With a good coordinated effort on behalf of the pullers, the person being tossed can get as high as thirty feet in the air and should land on his/her feet without falling down. Sometimes you can see jumpers dancing or running in place and sometimes flips and somersaults are done to the delight of the pullers and spectators. This is quite similar to a trampoline, with the only difference being that people are the springs and they can move to catch an errant jumper.
This is just a small portion of what WEIO is! If you are visiting Alaska during the Mid portion of July – please plan a visit to WEIO – you won’t regret it!