The Arctic Winter Games are a multisport competition that’s been held every two years since 1970— imagine the Olympic Games, but just for the north, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what the Games are. Currently, there are 9 participating jurisdictions, including five from Canada: the Northwest Territories, Yukon, Nunavut, Nunavik (Quebec), and Northern Alberta. Other participants come from Alaska, Greenland, Scandinavia, and Russia.
The Arctic Winter Games serve a significant cultural purpose for competitors and participating jurisdictions. The North is isolated, and the Games allow competitors to meet and experience different cultures from around the world. However, it is most well-known for its sports competitions, which include well-known sports like volleyball, hockey, and basketball, but also Arctic Sports and Dene Games of the Arctic’s Indigenous peoples.
The short documentary “Our Games” was created as part of Arctic Winter Games: Legacy, a multimedia website that looks at social, economic, and cultural impacts of the Games across the region. The project utilizes print, audio, video, and data in order to tell the uniquely Northern stories that come to the forefront of life in the Arctic every two years.
Having a multi-sport “games” is very much a southern ideal. Athletes represent their home contingents, and compete against one another for medals. The competitive principle of sport, though omnipresent in popular media, is not universal to all cultures.
“Our Games” examines how, despite the southern framework, Arctic Winter Games participants are able to incorporate the traditions of Indigenous sport culture into the competitive sphere, and how the result is a hybrid culture: a southern-based framework that holds within it something truly unique, and truly representative of its participants.
It was filmed during the 2014 Arctic Winter Games in Fairbanks, Alaska.
To view the rest of the project, visit AWGlegacy.com.
Feature image taken by Garrett Hinchey.