For Al Jazeera America: “At these games, culture counts”

FAIRBANKS, Alaska — The ball was made of sealskin, a furry sphere about the circumference of a softball, and it dangled 82 inches from the stadium floor. Autumn Ridley, an 18-year-old athlete in a Bob Marley T-shirt, studied it, letting the buzz of the stadium crowd fade from her thoughts.

This was the Alaskan high kick, one of dozens of games designed to test survival skills needed by ancient indigenous people in extreme northern climates at the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics (WEIO). The competition, held last week in Fairbanks, Alaska, was attended by roughly 200 indigenous athletes. Thousands showed up to watch the sports, dancing and cultural demonstrations.

Similar indigenous sporting competitions are being held this month across the circumpolar north, including the Beringia Games in Chukotka, Russia, and theTraditional Circumpolar Northern Games in Inuvik, in Canada’s Northwest Territories…

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