Donovan Jackson, 12, of Juneau competes in the one-foot high kick during the 2022 Traditional Games on April 2, 2022. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire file photo)

Donovan Jackson, 12, of Juneau competes in the one-foot high kick during the 2022 Traditional Games on April 2, 2022. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire file photo)

Record number of participants expected for seventh annual Traditional Games

Teams from Alaska, Canada and Lower 48 to compete in 12 Indigenous skills events starting Friday.

More than 260 participants representing 29 teams from Alaska, Canada and the Lower 48 are scheduled to compete in a dozen events based on ancient hunting and survival skills of Indigenous people during the seventh annual Traditional Games starting Friday at Juneau-Douglas High School: Kalé, according to organizers.

While a few events such as archery and the scissor broad jump will be familiar to people at the games for the first time, others such as the Alaskan high kick, seal hop and dené stick pull will be a learning experience. But that’s part of the spirit of the games where the concept of competition is about personal goals in a setting where other participants are willing to offer tips and other assistance, said Kyle Worl, a coach and participant as well as an organizer of the games.

“It’s a very inviting atmosphere for new athletes and new learners, or even non-athletes,” he said, adding “I was a high schooler that wasn’t known for doing sports. I didn’t do a lot of sports or activities. Then I found my athleticism through this sport. I think a lot of times young people might be turned off by the competitiveness of a sport, whether they’re good enough for the sport. But with the Traditional Games there’s a different mindset. It’s not about whether you’re good enough. It’s just about whether you’re interested in trying something out and being part of a community, and trying to go for your own self-improvement versus competition.”

Paige Hansen, 12, of Petersburg, competes in the kneel jump during the 2022 Traditional Games at Thunder Mountain High School while officials Ezra Elisoff and Anna Eason observe. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire file photo)

Paige Hansen, 12, of Petersburg, competes in the kneel jump during the 2022 Traditional Games at Thunder Mountain High School while officials Ezra Elisoff and Anna Eason observe. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire file photo)

The number of participants is the highest ever as the event has continued to grow annually, aside from the COVID-19 years, Worl said.

“We have the greatest representation of Southeast communities that we’ve ever had,” he said Monday. “That’s always been a push in this event. It invites teams from across Alaska, Canada and the Lower 48, but really our focus is to provide an event for our region so communities like Metlakatla don’t have to go all the way to Anchorage, they can have a regional event. And so we have communities from Yakutat all the way down to Metlakatla and everything in between.”

Participants compete in middle school, high school and open divisions, with men’s and women’s categories for each. Juneau will be represented by teams from Dzántik’i Héeni Middle School, Floyd Dryden Middle School, JDHS, Thunder Mountain High School, Yaaḵoosgé Daakahídi High School, University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) and the Tlingit Culture, Language and Literacy Program.

Participants arriving from outside Southeast include in-state teams as far as Utqiagvik, as well as out-of-state teams from Seattle, Whitehorse and Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas.

“Starting last year we did a really big push to get college teams,” Worl said when asked about the Kansas team. “And this is a new initiative for the sport, that we want to bring the sport to the collegiate level. It’s important for me as a high school coach — I’ve coached these kids all through high school — that they can continue their sport in college and have the same opportunities as, say, a basketball player. So we’ve outreached to colleges across Alaska and also in the Lower 48. And Haskell was a new connection that was made.”

An exchange program through the Sealaska Heritage Institute allowed the Haskell athletes to participate, Worl said.

“We did college tours for our NYO athletes, and they went to Haskell and we did a cultural exchange,” he said. “And we showed them the games and then we created a scholarship program for them to come here to take part in the games.”

The college and adult participants are scheduled to compete starting Friday since a lot of out-of-town students won’t arrive until late that day, with the middle school events starting Saturday morning, Worl said. The official opening ceremony is scheduled at noon Saturday, after which all three divisions will participate in events through Sunday.

Admission is free to the events, which are scheduled from 5:30-9 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday. The games will be livestreamed from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday on Sealaska Heritage Institute’s YouTube channel which will be accessible through the Traditional Games website at

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at or (907) 957-2306.

More in Sports

The Nogahabara Dunes spill into a lake 35 miles west of the village of Huslia as seen from the back seat of a Super Cub piloted by Brad Scotton of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service based in Galena. (Photo by Ned Rozell)
Alaska Science Forum: Sand dunes a unique Alaska landscape

NOGAHABARA DUNES — From a molded seat of sand dug into the… Continue reading

Fly fishing for salmon in the saltwater might reduce the opportunity to get quick limits, but there’s nothing like it. (Photo by Jeff Lund)
I Went to the Woods: Silvers on the fly

A school of a few dozen fish moved slowly through the teal… Continue reading

A common aerial wasp forages on cow parsnip flowers. (Photo by Bob Armstrong)
On the Trails: Cow parsnip flowers

Cow parsnip is known in our field guides as Heracleum lanatum, although… Continue reading

A roadside daisy displays a fasciated center. (Photo by Deana Barajas)
On the Trails: An odd plant malady, a clever duck, and more

I recently learned about a mysterious, relatively rare affliction of plants called… Continue reading

Juneau’s Jacob Thibodeau (right) takes a selfie with WSOP legend Phil Hellmuth in the background. (Photo provided by Alaska Sports Report)
Juneau’s Jacob Thibodeau and Mario Fata consistently cashing in at World Series of Poker

Anchorage pro Adam Hendrix remains Alaska’s most prominent poker player, but don’t… Continue reading

Heidi Reifenstein reaches Father Brown’s Cross to complete the Goldbelt Tram-Mount Roberts Trail Run on Saturday, setting a new women’s record for the 3½-mile race with a time of 37 minutes and 40 seconds. (Photo by Jeff Gnass)
A mother of a mountain: Heidi Reifenstein sets new women’s record for Goldbelt Tram-Mount Roberts Trail Run

Longtime Juneau resident returns to peak form after taking break from racing while raising kids.

The Nogahabara Sand Dunes in the Koyukuk Wilderness Area west of Koyukuk River. (Keith Ramos / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Alaska Science Forum: Mystery of the glass tool kit in the sand

From space, the Nogahabara Dunes are a splotch of blond sand about… Continue reading

After a morning hike, a satisfying breakfast for under $20 hits the spot. (Photo by Jeff Lund)
I Went to the Woods: Food for thought

To my left is a man with a thick British accent who… Continue reading

A bumblebee pollinates the flower of shy maiden, which will turn upward soon afterward. (Photo by Bob Armstrong)
On the Trails: Flowers, showy and otherwise

The spring and summer flower show at Cowee Meadows (way out on… Continue reading

Athletes compete in a swim event at the Dimond Park Aquatic Center on Sept. 16, 2023. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
My Turn: It’s OK to say an athlete failed at obtaining a goal

During the telecasts of the 2024 Olympic trials commentators stated that around… Continue reading

A brush turkey on a mound the size of a car ( photo by Doug Beckers /CC-BY-SA-2.0)
On the Trails: Nest-building by male birds

Most birds build some sort of nest where the eggs are incubated.… Continue reading

Insects like these flies clinging to a tent seem to be in ample supply in Alaska’s boreal forest. (Photo by Ned Rozell)
Alaska Science Forum: Insects of Alaska forest humming along

Recent long-term studies revealed a three-quarters reduction of insects in parts of… Continue reading