WEIO 2023 Day 2: Culture, games on full display

Published: Jul. 14, 2023 at 8:58 AM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTUU) - It seems like all around the World Eskimo Indian Olympics, there is a display of culture, whether it is the music, the dancing, the handmade arts and crafts, and the games themselves, which this celebration is centered around.

It’s also a display of culture, and that was on full display on day two of the event.

“Our ancestors have been doing these for thousands and thousands of years and it’s something that a lot of people don’t really understand — yes it’s also about athletics, but a lot of it is connection to your heritage and ancestors,” 18-year Peter Griggs said.

“They were used as traditional hunting techniques and stuff like that, so it’s taught me a lot about how my ancestors used to live,” 16-year-old Matthew Chagluak said.

Tanana’s Ariella Derrickson tried the Inuit stick pull competition at WEIO for the first time.

“The stick pull is not traditional to my Athabaskan heritage, but you’ve got to know how to pull a moose out of the woods, you have to pull a fish net out of the water, so it’s really fun. I like how they incorporate all the history for these games,” she said.

And while those experiences helped Derrickson win the event, she had another advantage over some of the other competitors.

“I think my strength definitely comes from being a mom; I have four kids who are also very strong,” Derrickson said with a laugh.

Meanwhile, Fairbanks’ Sido Evans, a WEIO official slash competitor, has won the event so many times, he’s started to lose count.

“I won — I think that’s ten times now?” Evans said.

Following the Inuit stick pull was the greased pole walk, the game which is used to test the balance one may need for crossing creeks and ice, and it has tough as it looks, Griggs was able to walk 63 inches for gold.

“It’s kind of a luck game, I was just like, ‘We’ll see how I do,’” Griggs said. “Last year, I think I got 11 inches, and I went out and I got 63 (this year), which is just a crazy experience, and I was just telling myself, ‘Don’t fall, don’t fall,’ and was just really trying.”

But as Griggs stands atop the podium, the games to him and other WEIO athletes go beyond the standings.

“There are medals — first, second and third — but no one really cares about that,” he said. “It’s just about sportsmanship and being nice and a nice person.”

As some walk away with medals, all walk away with much more.

“These young athletes that don’t really have a real sense of direction or maybe not a deep-rooted culture, it’s never too late,” Derrickson said. “You can pick up wherever you want and go with it, and that is the beauty of our Native people.”