The blanket toss (Nalukatuk) is arguably the most widely recognized event in the Northern Games. A large group of "pullers" gather around the edges of a blanket to stretch it out at waist height. After a participant climbs into the centre, the pullers rhythmically raise and lower the blanket.
Upon signal, the blanket is pulled taut and the participant in the center is tossed in the air, sometimes more than 6 metres (20 feet). The participant is expected to keep his or her balance and return upright - a particularly challenging feat if the participant does turns or flips while in the air.
The blanket toss originated with Inuit hunters because someone who was tossed into the air could spot caribou, whales, or other animals in the distance. Elders also speak of a time when the blanket toss was part of the ceremony to mark the close of a successful whaling season. Whaling captains were first to be tossed and while high in the air, they would throw gifts such as baleen and tobacco to the crowd.
In traditional times, the blanket was made of seal or walrus skins and a woven rope edging served as handles. The blanket used at the Northern Games today is made from canvas and is about 3 metres (10 feet) in diameter. Many Inuvialuit agree that the traditional version of the blanket has more bounce.
About Northern Games
The traditional Northern Games originate from the time when the Inuvialuit were still semi-nomadic and are played for both fun and survival, developing strength, endurance, and resistance to pain, or when groups from different areas visited.
Today, the annual Northern Games keeps the traditions of celebration, gathering, and sharing alive.