Email this articleE-mail this story  Discuss this articleWrite letter to editor  Discuss this articleOrder a classified ad  Print this page

Games Inuit play

Daniel T'seleie
Northern News Services

Resolute (June 20/05) - Television and video games may be two of the most popular forms of entertainment in the modern world, but traditional Inuit games are still a good form of entertainment.

Some have become standardized throughout the Northern world for competition purposes, like in the Arctic Winter Games. Others are merely forms of recreation for those who do not want to stare at an electronic screen. In the old days these games would sharpen hunting skills and train the body, said traditional game enthusiast Jeffrey Amarualik of Resolute.

He began playing traditional games when he was about 14, when he and his friends were bored. His interest grew with his skill and he began to learn more about the cultural value of these games.

He said some games, like the high kicks, are played for fun, but also help with physical conditioning.

Some games would also test a hunters' mental endurance.

"It's a test of pain - how much pain you could go through before you stop," Amarualik said of the knuckle-hop, a game where participants hop on their knuckles and toes as far as they can. "It does hurt."

These games, are good tests of skills and strength, but are not the best way to develop hunting abilities, said Attima Hadlari, a former Inuit games judge at the Arctic Winter Games.

"A good hunter is a good hunter," Hadlari said, emphasizing the importance of knowledge over strength when it comes to hunting.

Beliefs about traditional games vary from region to region, said Hadlari, who was raised around Kugaaruk and Taloyoak, but now lives in Cambridge Bay. There are more than 250 Inuit games in the world, Hadlari said.

Not all games were physical tests.

In nuklugaq, a spear game, players try to stab a small hole in a target. The target, carved from bone, is suspended from the ceiling of an iglu, and is twisted so it spins as players try to skewer it.

"That goes with hunting," Amarualik said. "It's just to get your aiming perfect."

Both Amarualik and Hadlari said nuklugaq was used on special occasions to distribute prizes between hunters. Before playing nuklugaq they would each contribute a tool.

"The first person to (spear) it takes what he needs," Amarualik said. The game would continue until all the tools were gone.