Fairbanks, Alaska (AK) – The annual World Eskimo-Indian Olympic Games (WEIO) will take place at the Big Dipper in Fairbanks from July 21 through 24, 2021. A four-day series of traditional Alaska Native athletic competitions, WEIO draws Native athletes and dancers from around the state, the United States, Canada and Greenland, as well as visitors, fans and media from around the globe. In addition to athletic competitions, WEIO also offers indigenous dances, authentic arts and crafts for sale, a Miss WEIO pageant and other cultural activities.
The competitions at WEIO give men and women the chance to test their strength, agility and endurance—all qualities that are needed to survive in the circumpolar north. Competitive games include high kick, knuckle hop, ear pull, two-foot high kick and Eskimo stick pull. WEIO offers a chance to meet with old friends and distant relatives, to entertain and be entertained, to challenge one another and to engage in friendly competition. For many competitors, WEIO is a way athletes and artists can showcase their skills and crafts and ensure that their culture is celebrated.
WEIO was created in 1961 in response to the rapidly spreading impact of western culture into rural areas. Two bush pilots, along with village elders and athletes, helped organize the first Olympics, which included a blanket toss, a seal-skinning contest and a Miss Eskimo Olympics Queen contest. The event has since grown to over 50 games with an ever-increasing number of athletes.
In addition to athletic events, WEIO is a time to don parkas, moose hide dresses and vests, mukluks and moccasins to compete in parka and Indian dress contests and to dance and tell stories through songs and motion. Dressed in kuspuks—traditional summer parkas—complete with feathered fans and drums, dancers perform throughout the four-day Olympics. Spectators and participants can browse through booths of authentic Alaska Native crafts and meet the artisans who carved, sewed or beaded the items. WEIO provides visitors the rare chance to experience a culture alongside those who live within it.
The WEIO games are held in Fairbanks on traditional Athabascan land. We respect this truth with the following Land Acknowledgement crafted by Denakkanaagan elders.
“We respectfully acknowledge the Dena people on whose traditional lands we reside. We honor the Dena who have been the stewards of Interior lands and waters for centuries, the elders who lived here before, the Dena people of today, and future generations to come. We also recognize that Alaska Native people would traditionally gather here and harvest Native foods.”
To learn more about the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics, visit weio.org. For more information on Fairbanks, request a free copy of the Fairbanks Visitors Guide and Winter Guide from Explore Fairbanks at 1-800-327-5774 or (907) 456-5774 or by writing to 101 Dunkel Street, Suite 111, Fairbanks, Alaska 99701. You can also order or view the guides online, get information about the aurora borealis and see a robust schedule of events and activities online at www.explorefairbanks.com.