Sealaska Heritage Institute
Team Juneau took 14 medals at the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics (WEIO) in Fairbanks this week, one of the largest showings ever captured by the capital city.
The awards were given to seven local athletes and included five gold, four silver and four bronze medals for Juneau’s team, which is relatively new to the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics, a grueling, highly-competitive athletic event that requires skill, strength, agility and endurance.
“We are thrilled to see the growth of this program and the success of our students,” said Rosita Worl, president of Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI), a sponsor of Juneau’s team. “Research has shown the positive effects of this program on participants and the results at the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics underscored that.”
The team practiced up to six days or 12 hours per week over the summer, said Coach Kyle Worl. The team also took part in a push-up challenge, and together they completed more than 30,000 push-ups within 60 days, Worl said.
“Our students trained so hard, and it paid off. The results are amazing. Last year, besides myself, we had only one other person medal; to have seven athletes medal this time is just a testament to their determination and stamina,” said Worl, noting the team also volunteered at six separate summer camps and community events.
“I’m excited to see these traditional games continue to grow in Southeast and strengthen our youth to be healthy, resilient and culturally grounded,” he said.
During the four-day event, athletes competed in such games as the Alaskan High Kick, the Indian Stick Pull and the Two-Foot High Kick, which exhibit the skills one needed historically for survival in the Arctic.
- Alaskan High Kick—Gold
- Two-Foot High Kick—Bronze
- Indian Stick Pull—Gold
- Bench Reach—Silver
- Drop The Bomb—Bronze
- Blanket Toss—Bronze
Coach Patrice DeAsis
- Grease Pole Walk—Bronze
Coach Kyle Worl
- Kneel Jump—Gold
- Knuckle Hop—Gold
- Grease Pole Walk—Gold
- Two-Foot High Kick—Silver
- Bench Reach—Silver
- Blanket Toss—Silver
- One-Hand Reach—Bronze
Other Team Juneau athletes included Kaytlynne Lewis, Josh Sheakley, Joe Dundore, Shane Paul, Kellie James, Kyle Abbott, and Erik Jim.
Major sponsors of the 2019 Juneau WEIO team included SHI and the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska.
About Traditional Games
Athletes from Alaska and outside the state every year showcase traditional games at annual venues, including the Native Youth Olympics (NYO) in Anchorage and the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics in Fairbanks. The games highlight skills that historically were necessary for Native people to survive and thrive in the Arctic. For example, the Alaskan High Kick was played during the long cold winter months to maintain and test one’s agility; the Inuit (formerly Eskimo) Stick Pull was used to practice pulling seals from the ice; and the One-Foot High Kick was used to signal a successful hunt (See https://www.sealaskaheritage.org/node/772 for a description of all games). Since 2018, Sealaska Heritage Institute and other sponsors have supported an annual Traditional Games in Juneau, which is Team Juneau’s qualifying event for the Native Youth Olympics. The 2019 Traditional Games in Juneau drew more than 100 athletes from Alaska and Canada.
Team Juneau organized in late 2017, and in 2018, Juneau sent a team to compete at the Native Youth Olympics for the first in almost 30 years. The program is more than a competition—the coaches foster an atmosphere of support and acceptance among the athletes, as historically people had to work together to succeed. In 2018, athlete evaluations showed that students’ cited the supportive community as one of the main reasons they participated. The program is open to Native and non-Native students.
Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. Sealaska Heritage Institute also conducts social scientific and public policy research that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee and a Southeast Regional Language Committee.