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Participants went back to their roots
Traditional skills and games celebrated

T. Shawn Giilck
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, March 21, 2013

East Three was the site of the first Northern Games/Dene Games Summit last week, a high-stepping, rollicking romp for all.

NNSL photo/graphic

East Three Grade 11 student Christopher Church dominated the kicking contests at the Northern Games March 14. He won both the two-foot kick and the one-foot kick. In the one-foot kick, his last kick came at a height of eight feet, three inches. - T. Shawn Giilck/NNSL photo

"The summit is a friendly competition of Traditional Aboriginal Games (Inuvialuit and Dene games)," said East Three vice-principal Lorne Guy.

All of the schools in the Beaufort Delta Educational Council district were invited to participate, and approximately 200 students from around the region attended.

The summit was sponsored by the Beaufort Delta Sahtu Recreation Association and Municipal and Community Affairs, Guy said, to encourage more interest and pride in the area's rich heritage.

One hundred students from East Three took part, with others from as far as Sachs Harbour and Paulatuk.

"We haven't done it quite like this before," Guy said. "But we have had festivals something like it."

Christopher Church, a 17-year-old Grade 11 student at East Three, likely was the story of the games. He won the senior one-foot and two-foot high kick in spectacular fashion. He reached a height of eight-feet three-inches in the single-foot category, and six-feet two-inches in the two-foot kick.

He's a basketball player who wanted to work on his jumping ability. He said he'd been practising the events for a "couple of weeks" before the summit.

"I just wanted to improve my jumping," he said.

The sports, to those unfamiliar with them, are an intricate combination of strength, balance, flexibility and co-ordination.

They likely arose from traditional skills, including the ability to quickly jump off the ice while hunting in case of a sudden crack or the need to escape other predators intent on the same prey, according to Donald Kuptana.

Another intriguing event was the snow snake, where participants skimmed a blunt wooden javelin along a snow-packed course. The world record distance for snow snake is approximately 524 feet, said Peter Lennie, who was helping to judge the event.

He said it's a variation of a Dene game. The sport arose from caribou hunting, he explained. Caribou typically sleep lying down, and it could be very difficult for hunters to approach them closely enough for a good spear throw, he said. Instead, the hunters developed a technique of skimming their spears across the snow at the animals from a distance. Occasionally a caribou was killed outright by the technique, but more often they were wounded and could be followed and finished.

"This is all about the technique," Lennie said. "Everybody tries to go hard, but it doesn't work without the right form."

"This is really cool," said Alexis Lucas, 12, of Sachs Harbour.

The focus of the games was on friendly competition, learning traditional skills from elders, and establishing an annual event in which students can display their athletic talent, Guy said.

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