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The Outsider’s Guide to Alaska’s Native Youth Olympics

The Native Youth Olympics, or NYO Games, are games rooted in Alaska Native history in which people tested their physical and mental strength, concentration and stamina. The Games have been active since 1972, and take place once a year in the Anchorage area in February (youth division) and April (senior division).

The ten events that make up the Native Youth Olympics

  • NYO_wrist_carry

    Wrist Carry

    Kneel Jump: jump up and forward from a kneeling position, land both feet simultaneously and remain in that position without moving and or otherwise touching the floor

  • Wrist Carry: suspend entire body from a pole using just one wrist while two people carry the pole
  • Alaskan High Kick: sit on the floor balanced on one foot while holding other foot, then thrust balancing foot straight up to kick a suspended ball, then land on the kicking foot while keeping balance
  • Eskimo Stick Pull: two opponents sit facing each other gripping a stick, winner pulls up opponent or causes them to lose balance
  • Scissor Broad Jump: make four continuous hops/steps without losing balance
  • Kneel Jump

    Kneel Jump

    One-Hand Reach: balancing body weight on palm or knuckles of one hand, then touch a suspended ball with free hand, then place their free hand on the floor

  • Two-Foot High Kick: jumping with both feet simultaneously and kick a suspended ball, then land back on both feet
  • Indian Stick Pull: with feet planted on marked positions, and arms held down, two opponents must attempt to pull a tapered and greased wooden dowel from the other’s hand
  • One-Foot High Kick: take a standing or running start and jump with both feet, kick a suspended ball with one foot, then land on the kicking foot
  • Seal Hop: from a push-up position, contestants must hop — seal-like — across the floor on their hands and toes while maintaining the push-up position

Learn more about each event at the NYO Games Alaska website.

The NYO Games are rooted in traditions of survival and hunting in the harsh Alaskan terrain and climate, most notably in the winter. They were played to keep the hunters sharp and in top form. The Eskimo stick pull, for instance, is based on the Native hunter exercise of pulling seals out of the water.

A testament to cultural heritage and future generations

Two Foot Kick

Two Foot Kick

The main goal of the NYO Games is to catalyze values of sportsmanship, leadership and respect to Alaska’s youth…and have fun, of course. The competition is open to all grade school students regardless of ethnicity.

The NYO Games are hosted by the Cook Inlet Tribal Council, a nonprofit social service agency. Their mission is to provide culturally appropriate services for Alaska Native people to promote self-determination through individual, family and community development. The NYO honors Alaska’s rich Native heritage and ensures Native Alaskans that the traditions of their forefathers will not be forgotten.

Image credits: NYO Games Alaska and acvbpr