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Story by Van Williams | The Arctic Sounder
If it’s late April, it must be Native Youth Olympics.
Each year some 600 kids from all over Alaska converge on the Native Youth Olympics in Anchorage for three days of traditional competition of power and precision.
It might be a new experience to some, but the message has been the same since NYO started in 1971.
“It gives our youth an opportunity to share their culture with their peers because this is not a Native only event,” said NYO coordinator Stephanie Hayes of the Cook Inlet Tribal Council. “Sharing values has always been a very important part of the games.”
The 42nd annual Native Youth Olympics kicks off Friday and continues through Sunday at the Dena’ina Center.
Games include fan favorites such as the one-foot high kick, seal hop and Eskimo stick pull.
Many of the athletes are second and third generation athletes, sons and daughters of great champions. Some are newcomers looking to try something different. There’s a place for everyone at NYO.
The athletes come from small villages, tiny towns and big cities. They represent the face of Alaska’s future.
And that’s why the Cook Inlet Tribal Council has added an ‘Opportunities Expo’ to give them something to think about moving forward.
“A lot of places don’t go out and talk with our youth out in the rural areas because it’s so cost prohibitive,” Hayes said. “So we took this opportunity for them to look at employment opportunities and school opportunities.
“We figure that we’ve got a captive audience, let’s show them there’s a whole world out there.”
There will more than 30 booths set up at the Dena’ina Center featuring arts and crafts, traditional foods and much more.
“The main focus is for our youth to see the opportunities that are out there for them here in Alaska as well as possibly going outside and bringing those skills back,” Hayes said.
For years, the Cook Inlet Tribal Council has played a pivotal role in turning the NYO games into one of the true marquee events of the spring.
This year’s event will feature a blanket toss, Pilot Bread recipe contest, drumming and dancing and motivational speakers.
Last year the keynote speaker was John Baker, 2011 champion of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
“This is a chance to celebrate Alaska’s amazing heritage,” said Kelly Hurd, director of development at Cook Inlet Tribal Council.
Schedule of Events
This article originally appeared in The Arctic Sounder and is reprinted here with permission.