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I challenge you to try at least one Inuit game! Compete against your friends or try them on your own. Use this as a chance to learn more about why the games were developed so many generations ago and how they’re used today.
About This Challenge
Inuit games and sports have been played and practiced by Northern Peoples in the circumpolar regions since Time Immemorial. Each game was designed to keep different aspects of people’s bodies healthy and strong throughout the year - this is particularly important for thriving in difficult environments and in harsh winters. Traditional Inuit games were played at community gatherings and fostered connection, cultural pride, and competition as they continue to do today.
The games are about individual competition and skill development, but also about team building and working towards common goals. They specifically test strength, agility, endurance and sometimes teamwork; these skills are essential for hunting and were essential for life in the North. The games are played today for friendly competition, for skill-building, and for health and fitness - the same reasons they’ve been played for thousands of years throughout the North. Today there are large-scale competitions, festivals, and other events that bring together youth, Elder, and adult competitors from different Inuit Communities, regions, and countries around the world. These competitions help to build and promote cultural pride and encourage healthy living.
Example Strength Games
- Head pull
- Arm pull
Example Agility Games
- Kneel jump
- One foot high kick
- Two foot high kick
Example Endurance Games
- Back push
- Knuckle hop
Why Inuit Games?
"The games are as important as our language, our throat singing, and our drum dancing. They are vital because traditionally they were used not only for fun, not only for celebration, but for survival. And that is why a lot of us are here, because our ancestors created these ways to survive." - Johnny Issaluk, "Games of Survival"
Inuit games are such an important part of Inuit culture. They allow us to stay close to our histories and to connect with each other now. While we may have different names for certain games, or slightly different ways of playing, Inuit games are played all over the North and help us to bridge cultures around the circumpolar regions. Inuit games can allow us to share our culture each other here in the North and with southerners in Canada as well.
For many generations, these games were incredibly important for our survival as Inuit people; today the games continue to be a crucial aspect of Inuit life - in no small part because they allow us to connect with each other and to connect with our culture. Inuit games contain our history; they help us to share our values and to pass on important skills.
Everyone in Canada can learn what these games are and how to play them for fun and fitness; you can also choose to learn the history of the games and allow the values and cultural teachings to influence the way you think about healthy living. I encourage you to try out a few of these games and to share with us which ones you tried on social media. I also encourage you to check out the resources below to learn more about what these games can teach us and engage with Inuit culture. Whether you’re Inuit, First Nation, Métis or non-Indigenous, I’m sure there are some games here you’ve never tried before and some lessons you’ve yet to learn.
We’ve put together a list of a few places to learn more about Inuit games, but I encourage you to read and watch all you can and do your own research. There are so many amazing athletes and competitors setting new records and pushing their limits every year. You don't need to set a new record to try it though, if you can, I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and try a few of these traditional games - you might surprise yourself!
To begin, click "accept challenge" below!
Inuit Games Competitions
- NYO Games: Competitive Events
- Johnny Issaluk and Eilís Quinn (Eye on the Arctic) on Inaugural Beringia Arctic Games
- Traditional Indigenous sports take centre stage at 25th Arctic Winter Games
- Games of the North (short film)
- Arctic Winter Games: Kneel Jump
- Labrador Winter Games: Northern Games
- Arctic Winter Games 2016
Learn to Play!
- WEIO: Games
- Games of Survival : Traditional Inuit Games for Elementary Students
- Traditional Inuit Games
- High Kick - Instructional Video
- Kneel Jump - Instructional Video
- Inuit High Kick (short film)
- Rick Mercer at the Labrador Winter Games
- Inuvialuit Games
- Inuit games with Johnny Issaluk at Mackenzie Community School
Join others who have
accepted this challenge.
Johnny Issaluk is an actor, an athlete, a coach, and a cultural ambassador from the arctic hamlet Igluligaarjuk, on the coast of Hudson’s Bay in Nunavut. He grew up traditionally, out on the land, hunting, fishing and camping with his Elders, as Inuit have for centuries. As an athlete Johnny has been practicing, competing, performing, coaching and teaching Inuit Games for more than 20 years. Johnny’s athletic career has yielded more than 200 medal finishes in regional and national competitions. He is one of the most successful Inuit Games athletes of his generation. Johnny is a recipient of the Diamond Jubilee Medal, and one of the first sixty Canadians to receive the honour, recognized for his ongoing contribution to the health and wellbeing of Nunavummiut.
"The games are as important as our language, our throat singing, and our drum dancing. They are vital because traditionally they were used not only for fun, not only for celebration, but for survival. And that is why a lot of us are here, because our ancestors created these ways to survive."Read More