Northern Arizona University’s Miss Indigenous Shondiin Mayo, center, greets the crowd at the 2019 Traditional Games at Thunder Mountain High School on Saturday, March 16, 2019. Mayo and several others from NAU are participating in the two-day event featuring the traditional games of the Alaska Native peoples. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

Northern Arizona University’s Miss Indigenous Shondiin Mayo, center, greets the crowd at the 2019 Traditional Games at Thunder Mountain High School on Saturday, March 16, 2019. Mayo and several others from NAU are participating in the two-day event featuring the traditional games of the Alaska Native peoples. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

Alaska youth rally together at Traditional Games

Teams came from as far as Arizona

The first day of the 2019 Traditional Games was rife with displays of unity and togetherness, as teams from across the state of Alaska (and one from Arizona) gathered for Native Youth Olympics.

Around 60 Juneau athletes were joined by several dozen visiting athletes from such distant outposts of Utqiagvik, Bethel and even Arizona for the games, which are based on Alaska’s indigenous peoples’ hunting and survival skills. In the past, Juneau athletes would need to travel to Anchorage or Fairbanks for such competitions.

[Juneau welcomed back to Native Youth Olympics]

“What you’re doing here today is you’re building a support group — don’t ever feel alone,” Sealaska Heritage Institute Vice President Albert Kookesh said in the opening remarks on Saturday morning at Thunder Mountain High School. “These people are your support group. Stay with them. Stay with them.”

The Juneau team included students from both middle schools — Floyd Dryden and Dzantik’i Heeni — and all three high schools — Juneau-Douglas, Thunder Mountain and Yaakoosge Daakahidi. All the athletes filed into the gym with their respective teams to begin the opening ceremonies, and after listening to Kookesh and others, took in a performance from Tlingit rapper Arias Hoyle.

[For the first time since the 1980s, Juneau will compete at the Native Youth Olympics]

“I love the new introduction of the rapper and I also like the fact that we had elders dispense wisdom onto us,” NYO official Vincent Tomalonis said. “Hearing all the sponsors speak was great and very inspiring. Behind the scenes (Juneau coach) Kyle (Kaayák’w Worl) only had one hour of sleep. He deserves lots of credit for hosting all these things.”

Tlingit rapper Arias Hoyle performs during the 2019 Traditional Games opening ceremonies. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

Tlingit rapper Arias Hoyle performs during the 2019 Traditional Games opening ceremonies. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

Tommy Bayayok, Bethel Regional High School head coach, brought eight athletes down from the remote city located 400 miles west of Anchorage.

“When I first got the message from Kyle about Juneau hosting, I’ve never been to Southeast, I was very interested in the fundraising to bring the group,” Bayayok said.

“We did a couple of weekends of concession stands at ballgames back home.”

He brought a pretty good team of athletes, too, many of whom were eager to test their skills against new blood.

“I’ve never been here personally but I thought it would be a good experience to get to compete against new people and have newer competition,” Bethel’s JoBeth Stuart, 18, said.

Stuart was one of the top girl competitors at the NYO state games in Anchorage last year, like her teammate, Kelsie Madson.

“NYO is the sport that represents the culture,” Madson, 17, said. “I think it’s cool that more people are getting involved again.”

Before 2017, Native Youth Olympics were only practiced at the elementary school level in Juneau. Last year about 50 high school students started competing in the sport after Worl started practicing with JDHS, TMHS and YDHS students.

The inaugural Traditional Games were held at the University of Alaska Southeast but competition was only open to Juneau athletes.


• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or nainsworth@juneauempire.com. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.


Traditional Games official and former World Eskimo-Indian Olympics blanket toss winner Marjorie Tahbone shows off her skills to kick off the 2019 Traditional Games at Thunder Mountain High School on March 16, 2019. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

Traditional Games official and former World Eskimo-Indian Olympics blanket toss winner Marjorie Tahbone shows off her skills to kick off the 2019 Traditional Games at Thunder Mountain High School on March 16, 2019. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

More in Sports

Associated Press
                                In this March 2017 photo, volunteer handlers guide teams out of the dog yard and down the chute to the starting line of the 45th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Fairbanks, Alaska. The world’s most famous sled dog race will go forward in 2021, and officials are preparing for every potential contingency now for what the coronavirus and the world might look like in March when the Iditarod starts.
Iditarod preps for any scenario as 2021 race plans proceed

The world’s most famous sled dog race will go forward in 2021.

The Juneau Mountain Bike Alliance and City and Borough of Juneau are collaborating to finish a new pump track for bicycle riders in Cope Park, due to be finished within weeks, Sept. 16, 2020. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
Outdoors pump track work is ramping up

Cope Park is about to have a new way to keep entertained.

Coach Merry Ellefson compliments runners on a job well done after a race. (Courtesy Photo / Debbie Lowenthall)
Long-distance running meets socially distanced competition

Team spirit carries Juneau-Douglas Yadaa.at Kalé High School’s runners on where others falter.

Matt Boline demonstrates a drill during a recent workout with players in the 12-and-under group workout at Treadwell Ice Arena. (Courtesy Photo / Steve Quinn)
Photos: It’s heating up on the ice

Juneau Douglas Ice Association’s youth hockey season is underway at Treadwell Ice Arena.

Alan Stuart/Pair of Thieves 
                                This photo shows Doug Peterson posed recently in Pacific City, Ore., next to the camper van that will accompany him on a nearly 1,500-mile bike ride to raise awareness for National Suicide Prevention Month. Peterson is riding his bike from the Canadian border to the Mexican border during the month of September, raising money with the support of apparel company Pair of Thieves and awareness for National Suicide Prevention Month.
Oregon man rides from Canada to Mexico for suicide awareness

He will ride across the country during National Suicide Prevention Month.

Capital Kennel Club of Juneau stays dogged, holds first post-pandemic trials

Past events had been scratched — and not behind the ears.

Runners jog through a haze of colored powder as they begin a 5k run through downtown Juneau on Sunday, April 29, 2018. (Richard McGrail / Juneau Empire File)
Some local color: Downtown run is coming up

DBA partnered with the J-D Cross Country team will host the 2020 DBA Color Run.

Israeli Olympic racewalker Shaul Ladany holds his 1972’s Olympic race shoes for a portrait in Omer, Israel, Sunday, July 12, 2020. In an instant, the world record holder in the 50-mile walk was thrust into one of sports’ greatest tragedies and a seminal moment in modern history _ the kidnapping and massacre of his fellow Israeli team members at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The killing shocked the world, gave the Palestinian cause an audience and ushered in a new era of global terrorism. Ladany, a Holocaust survivor, the lessons still linger. He says it taught him to “never be afraid” but become “more careful.”(AP Photo / Ariel Schalit)
Israeli racewalker recalls surviving 1972 Munich massacre

In an instant, he was thrust into one of sports’ greatest tragedies.

Linda Kruger approaches Father Brown’s Cross and the finish of the Juneau Trail and Road Runners Mount Roberts Tram Run on Mount Roberts Trail. The event sponsored annually by the Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway. (Courtesy Photo | Jeff Gnass)
Dozens participate in distanced Mount Roberts Trail run

Fastest time was just over 24 minutes.

Courtesy photo | Alexandra Razor 
                                Former members of the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaat.at Kalé softball team will play an alumni game on Sunday to raise money for travel and equipment for the team.
JDHS softball team to hold alumni game

It might be the first alumni game held by the JDHS softball team.