Kadin Hale throws the snow snake spear during Dene games trials for the Arctic Winter Games in Whitehorse on Jan. 7. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Yukon Dene games team ready for Arctic Winter Games

‘We plan on going for four gold medals in hand games’

The Yukon Aboriginal Sport Circle hosted Arctic Winter Games (AWG) trials for Dene games on Jan. 7 at Jack Hulland Elementary School and the hopes are high.

“I think it went pretty well,” said coach Matthew Brown. “We had more of a turnout.”

Rose Inglangasuk, program and communication manager for YASC, agreed.

“They went really well. We had kids from two communities and each of the categories,” said Inglangasuk.

A total of sixteen athletes in four classes — open men, junior men, junior women and juvenile women — will make the trip to Hay River, N.W.T., for the AWG.

Although the team still has some spaces open, Inglangasuk said the hope is to fill out the team with athletes from the communities.

“We’ll train with these athletes and try to recruit some more in the communities. We just need to figure out exactly when we’re going and which communities we’re going to,” said Inglangasuk.

Dene games athletes compete in three individual events — snow snake, finger pull and stick pull — and two team events — pole push and hand games. There are also medals given out for the best all-around athletes based on the results in the individual events.

In the snow snake, competitors throw a 1.4-metre spear underhand as far as they can over a flat snow surface. The finger pull is a test of strength between two athletes who lock middle fingers and pull until one player gives up. To win the stick pull, an athlete has to pull a grease-covered stick out of their opponent’s grip.

Dene games are different than most of the events at the AWG in that they’re based on traditional skills.

“Traditional hunting and survival skills are taught from these games,” said Inglanasuk.

The snow snake mimics traditional hunting by throwing spears along the snow and ice. In the same way, the stick pull is similar to grabbing a slippery fish out of the water or a net.

Hand games is a team event where one team hides objects in their hands and a member of the opposition tries to guess where the hidden objects are.

Team Yukon excelled in hand games in 2016, winning three gold medals.

Brown said the hope is to repeat that success.

“We were talking about that yesterday,” said Brown of the 2016 results. “We plan on going for four gold medals in hand games.”

The last event, pole push, is similar to tug of war and involves two teams on opposite ends of a log trying to push the log and their opponents out of a circle.

The pole push is a spectator sport and one of Brown’s favourites.

“The pole push is a pretty fun event to be in and watch because it’s like sumo wrestling but with big old logs.”

YASC is the governing body for Arctic sports, Dene games and archery in the Yukon.

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

Arctic Winter GamesDene gamesTeam Yukon

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