Nathan Blake, 15, does a two-foot high kick during a demonstration of traditional Arctic games at the Sealaska Arts Campus on Thursday, June 8, 2022, part of the Celebration 2022 festivities. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Nathan Blake, 15, does a two-foot high kick during a demonstration of traditional Arctic games at the Sealaska Arts Campus on Thursday, June 8, 2022, part of the Celebration 2022 festivities. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Local students show traditional games skills

Pan-Arctic games.

Local students and coaches demonstrated traditional Alaska Native games such as the Alaska high kick, two-foot high kick, the Inuit stick pull and others at Atnané Hít, or House of Art, the new Sealaska Heritage Arts Campus in downtown Juneau as part of the Celebration 2022 festivities.

Nathan Blake, left, and Alex Marx-Beierly demonstrate a crawl meant to mimic the movements of a seal on an ice float during a demonstration of traditional games at the Sealaska Arts Campus on Thursday, June 8, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Nathan Blake, left, and Alex Marx-Beierly demonstrate a crawl meant to mimic the movements of a seal on an ice float during a demonstration of traditional games at the Sealaska Arts Campus on Thursday, June 8, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

The games being demonstrated weren’t actually from Southeast Alaska, according to Kyle Worl, a traditional games athlete and coach for traditional games.

“These are games that have been around for hundreds, maybe thousands of years,” Worl told a crowd gathered around two apparatuses holding up a ball at the end of a string. Many of the games involve trying to kick or grab the ball in a certain way and from a certain position.

[Hundreds gather for Celebration grand procession]

The games were originally developed by hunters, Worl said, in order to train the skills necessary to survive in a hard northern climate. The games being demonstrated Thursday were traditionally played by the Athabascan people of South Central Alaskan, Worl said, but the games can be found in Arctic Regions around the globe including Greenland and Siberia.

Lyric Ashenfelter attempts to grab a ball while balancing on her other hand while her traditional games teammate Simone Rabung watches during a demonstration of traditional Arctic games at the Sealaska Arts Campus on Thursday, June 8, 2022.

Lyric Ashenfelter attempts to grab a ball while balancing on her other hand while her traditional games teammate Simone Rabung watches during a demonstration of traditional Arctic games at the Sealaska Arts Campus on Thursday, June 8, 2022.

Leif Richards, 15, is a student at Thunder Mountain High School and currently part of a summer program for traditional games, was one of the students in Thursday’s demonstration. Richards said he’d been doing traditional games since fourth grade.

“It’s probably one foot right now, but it changes,” he said of his favorite event, the one-foot high kick.

Richards and other high school students, both boys and girls, took turns demonstrating various games but occasionally one of the coaches stepped in to demonstrate.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

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