Arctic Sports & Dene Games
by Davida Wood
February 02, 2012
As the Arctic Winter Games (AWG) fast approaches there has been talk of the numerous cultural and sports activities that will occur here in Whitehorse in March. Undeniably we have heard talk of the Dene Games and Arctic Sports, this isn’t new to the Yukon or the North for that matter, in fact the Dene games and Arctic Sports are age old competitions and in part help to define some of the cultures and traditions that are held by the people in our northern communities.
Dene Games, the 5 which we will be able to view during the AWG, March 4-10, are as follows:
The Finger Pull
The Pole Push
The Snow Snake
The Stick Pull
Arctic Sports on the other hand are actually quite different and involve activities such as:
The One and Two Foot High Kicks
One-Handed and the Bench Reach
In my opinion, I don’t think it matters which set of games you are viewing, they are both highly entertaining, challenging, and interesting to watch and figure out. There are a number of these activities that you may be able to try or attempt without little training, but to actually succeed at these sports and be a competitor some training is definitely needed. Depending on the activities you may either be drawing on brute strength and stamina or your mind and social skills.
We will focus in on two of the games here on this post, and then provide you with some valuable links to read up more on the other games that are out there.
The first one, The Airplane, a part of the Arctic Sports arena requires you to be incredibly fit, with good stamina and a good state of mind. In this activity, the athlete is assisted by three people. Starting from a prone position on the ground, the three helpers each grab either a wrist or the ankles of the athlete. The participant is then lifted up off of the ground and carried around a 25 foot grid. Throughout this process the player needs to keep their body rigid and flat without sagging. Whoever is able to do this for the longest period of time is the winner. Perhaps this doesn’t sound too difficult, I challenge you to try it and then see for yourself.
The other activity we will touch upon is Hand Games, this challenge is a team challenge in which two opposing groups sit face to face, anywhere from four to six players, for the AWG I believe there are four people per team. They then alternate hiding a token in each player’s hands. The opposite team has a captain who is charged with making the call, to try to decipher which hands the other teams players are hiding their tokens in. There is a lot of history to this challenge, and Yukoners and Northerns alike take these games very seriously; you can find Hand Games tournaments occurring all across the north throughout the entire year.
To find out more about Dene Games and Arctic Sports during the AWG, please visit their website at:
A great website that talks more about each of the Dene Games and more of their history is:
And lastly, a site that describes and provides some good photos of the Arctic Sports is:
And for video footage of many of these activities to get you warmed up for viewing pleasure in February, just check out You Tube and type in the game of your choice, there is a surprising number of videos out there.
Hope to see you out and about viewing the games in a month from now.