NYO teams are drawn from Alaskan students of all ethnicities in grades 7 through 12. Schools may field one team each of students in good standing, each of whom must enter at least one event at the games. Only one boy and one girl from each school will be allowed to enter any given event.
Other events include the stick pull, which sees two athletes sit facing each other and grasping a stick, each trying to pull their opponent off the floor, as well as the one-foot high kick, which involves kicking a suspended ball -- then keeping one’s balance and landing successfully on the same foot that made the kick.
Each of the NYO’s events is modeled on a traditional activity from Alaska Native heritage. The wrist carry and one-foot high kick are meant to signal successful hunts, for instance, while the stick pull builds the upper-body strength required to pull a seal onto the ice during a hunt.
According to a history of the Native Youth Olympics posted online by the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the first games were organized in the spring of 1971 by Sarah Hanuske, a coordinator at the Boarding Home Program in Anchorage, along with the program’s students. Twelve schools sent about 100 students to the event from as far away as Sitka and Nome.
This year’s Native Youth Olympics will continue through Sunday, when closing ceremonies are scheduled for 5 p.m. Admission is free, and a full schedule of events has been posted online.