CBC Digital Archives

Arctic Winter Games launch in 1970

With events like "knuckle hop", "ear pull" and "sledge jump", the Arctic Winter Games are more than just another international athletic competition. The best of the North compete in ancient native games alongside hockey and curling as part of the biannual event. The Games began in 1970 as a way for folks living north of the 55th parallel to compete on their own turf. It has since evolved into a sporting and cultural extravaganza where throat singers and dog mushers help preserve the distinct northern way of life.

Under a sunny sky on March 10, 1970, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau officially opens the first Arctic Winter games as heard in this CBC Radio clip. Over 500 athletes representing Alaska, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories have gathered in Yellowknife to compete for a chance to take home the gold ulu. In keeping with the North's distinct heritage, the gold medals are in the shape of triangular knives used by the native people of Alaska.

Reporting from the capital of the Northwest Territories, CBC's Ernie Afaganis describes the "unique Eskimo competitions" such as the "high kick," "blanket toss" and the excruciating "ear weight." "Don't try it," cautions Afaganis, "unless you really don't need the ear." Play-by-play broadcasts in native languages, heard later in the clip, keep all northerners informed.
• In the high kick, participants must kick a small target suspended in air. The winner is the one who kicks the highest. In the blanket toss, people stand in a circle holding a blanket usually made from seal or walrus skins. The object is to be tossed the highest. In the ear weight, weights are added to the ear. The person who can lift the most is declared the winner.

• Arctic sports were demonstrated at the first two Arctic Winter Games but were not officially included until 1974.

• Traditional native games evolved from the need to build strength, endurance, accuracy and resistance to pain within the small confines of an igloo.

• The Inuit are aboriginal people from Northern Canada. The word means "people" in the Inuit language, Inuktitut. They are sometimes referred to as "Eskimo"; a term considered derogatory by the Inuit people.

Medium: Radio
Program: Assignment
Broadcast Date: March 10, 1970
Reporter: Ernie Afaganis
Speaker: Pierre Elliott Trudeau
Duration: 4:07

Last updated: March 11, 2014

Page consulted on March 11, 2014

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