History and Philosophy
In concert with the Northwest Territories centennial in 1970, the inaugural Northern Games were held in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada.
Increased interest in traditional activities led to the formalization of the Northern Games through the establishment of the Northern Games Society. Participants in the first few Northern Games hailed from the Northwest Territories, the Yukon Territory and Alaska. Since that time the Northern Games have grown into several successful events across the Arctic and as a result these traditional practices have progressed from ceremonial to full competitive status at the Arctic Winter Games.
For over 40 years, the Northern Games Society has encouraged the teaching and practice of traditional aboriginal games, dances and skills. Practicing the valued customs of the past by coming together in a spirit of fun and friendly social exchange is one important way to strengthen Inuit (Inuvialuit) culture. Through the Northern Games youth discover the rich history they have inherited from their ancestors, and take pride in their cultural heritage.
The following quote from Edward Lennie was excerpted from the 1985 Souvenir Program and included in the 2000 Souvenir Program speaks of the history and origin of the Games:
"You can't say that the games came from here, or the games came from there. They were passed on from generation to generation. Maybe it's a good thing to say that when the Good Lord came down to put us on the earth, the games were there. They found them. They were passed on from generation to generation. Wherever the Inuit came from, that's where it all started.
All these sports just fit into one life story and it's hard to explain. Our style of sports is to be good at every little thing and if somebody beats you, you just go over there and shake his hand. It means there's somebody better than you. That's our style of sport. You've got to be thinking all of the time. Every part of your body, even your mind, has to be working. A guy that moves slowly doesn't have to be fast, as long as he thinks fast. The best way I can explain it is just to keep playing the games."
The original Northern Games Committee consisted of Edward Lennie, Billy Day, Reverend Doug Dittrich, Nellie Cournoyea, Richard Hill, Kenneth Peeloolook and Tom Kalinek. Since those early days the vision and enthusiasm of the countless volunteers have helped the Northern Games evolve into an important facet of the northern sports scene, and a celebration of Arctic aboriginal culture.
We approach our fifth decade with momentum, resolve and a strong sense of purpose to see that the Northern Games be passed on to the next generation and that the Games continue to be played.
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.