Alaska’s Olympic history reaches back several thousand years. Every July, Fairbanks hosts the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics (WEIO), a four-day series of traditional Alaska Native athletic competitions and dances.
WEIO draws Native athletes and dancers from around the state, the United States and Canada, as well as visitors, fans and media from around the globe. The 49th WEIO Games this year take place July 21-24, 2010.
The competitions at the Olympics not only provide entertainment, but give men and women the chance to test their strength, discipline and endurance – all qualities that are needed to survive in a harsh and often unforgiving climate.
All the WEIO events, from the fish cutting competition to the greased pole walk, serve this purpose. For instance, fast yet careful fish cutters were sometimes needed to process a plentiful fish run before spoilage could occur. A walk on a birch pole slathered with bear grease was good practice for walking in precarious situations such as checking a fish wheel on the river.
Besides being a time to test strength and endurance, WEIO is also a time to don parkas, moosehide dresses and vests, mukluks and moccasins to compete in parka and Indian dress contests. It is also a time to dance and tell stories through songs and motion.
For visitors, it’s a chance to see unparalleled feats of endurance and agility. It is also a chance to browse through booths of authentic Alaska Native crafts, and meet the people who carved, sewed, wove or beaded the items.
Every year WEIO coincides with Golden Days, Fairbanks’ annual summer celebration of its Gold Rush heritage, providing locals and visitors a variety of activities to choose from.
For more information about top events in Alaska, take a look at the Top Events USA selection of the annual main festivals and events in Alaska
To learn more about the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics visit www.weio.org