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Fairbanks Hosts Annual World Eskimo-Indian Olympics
July 17, 2019 - July 20, 2019
The competitions at the Olympics give men and women the chance to test their strength, agility and endurance—all qualities that are needed to survive in the circumpolar north. Competitive games include high-kick, knuckle hop, ear pull, two-foot high kick and Eskimo stick pull. For the competitors, WEIO is a chance to meet old friends and distant relatives, to entertain and be entertained, to challenge one another and to engage in friendly competition. For many competitors, WEIO is a way athletes and artists can showcase their skills and crafts and ensure that their culture is celebrated.
WEIO was created in 1961 in response to the rapidly spreading impact of western culture into rural areas. Two bush pilots, along with village elders and athletes, helped organize the first Olympics, which included a blanket toss, a seal-skinning contest and a Miss Eskimo Olympics Queen contest. The event has since grown to over 50 games, with an ever-increasing number of athletes.
In addition to athletic events, WEIO is a time to don parkas, moose hide dresses and vests, mukluks and moccasins to compete in parka and Indian dress contests, and to dance and tell stories through songs and motion. Dressed in kuspuks—traditional summer parkas—complete with feathered fans and drums, dancers perform throughout the four-day Olympics. Spectators and participants can browse through booths of authentic Alaska Native crafts, and meet the artisans who carved, sewed or beaded the items. WEIO provides visitors the rare chance to experience a culture alongside those who live within it.