"These aren't just Games. They're survival skills."
— Big Bob Aiken (Iñupiaq) Barrow, Alaska
For thousands of years, traditional Inuit sports have been vital for surviving the unforgiving Arctic. Acrobatic and explosive, these ancestral Games evolved to strengthen mind, body and spirit within the community. Following four modern Inuit athletes reveals their unique relationship to the Games as they compete across the North. As unprecedented change sweeps across their traditional lands, their stories illuminate the importance of the Games today.
The Native Games are shared across the Circumpolar North. Remote traditional communities play the Games during celebrations and gatherings throughout the year. Enter the Arctic Winter Games—an event that takes place every two years for a week in March—drawing hundreds of participants from Russia, Finland, Norway, Greenland, Quebec, Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Northern Alberta, Yukon and Alaska. The best circumpolar athletes unite to test their physical limits, celebrate and share their culture.
Embark on the athletic and personal journey of David Thomas, a World Champion Inupiaq athlete raised by his Grandmother, an Inupiaq Elder. Growing up far from the Arctic in the small town of Palmer, Alaska, his commitment to the Games reflects the strong values of his upbringing and leads to a discovery of his personal abilities and ancestry.
Native Games World champion, Elizabeth Rexford successfully bridges the traditional world of Barrow with the Ivy League of Dartmouth College. Through her story we see how the Games prepare her to succeed and overcome obstacles in her life.
Five-time World Record Holder Jesse Frankson leads a traditional subsistence way of life in the remote village of Point Hope, Alaska. He proves that the wilderness is the best training ground, as his abilities and personality embody the spirit and values of the Games.
Legendary World Record Holder Brian Randazzo was the first superstar in the Native Games. His record shattering performances thrilled crowds and rejuvenated the Games in a time of difficulty. As Brian awaits the breaking of his 23-year world record, what does the future hold for the Games?
Alaska with its diversity of landscapes—is home to eleven distinct First Nation cultures, with twenty-six Native languages and over fifty dialects. More than twice the size of Texas—Alaska has more coastline than the entire continental United States.
The traditional village of Barrow (Ukpeagvik), is America's northernmost community. Like most Alaska Native villages, there are no roads to Barrow. Completely isolated on the edge of the world—the only way the community survived was to provide for one another. A strict value system was enforced to maintain the health of the community. The Games support these traditional values and strengthen the whole community.