October 19, 2013

NYO: Native Youth Olympics

This Friday, Joshua and I had the awesome pleasure in witnessing our first NYO event.
NYO stands for Native Youth Olympics, and is competed all around the state of Alaska.
Joshua and I were just amazed at what these students could do. Plus, it was fun to see some of my 5th/6th graders compete. (You have to be 12 or older to compete.)

Before the event, and right after it ended, they celebrate with Eskimo dancing. This is one of the coolest parts about living in Newtok. They definitely get into their dancing and it really is enjoyable to watch.

One of my fifth graders joining in on the drums.

The Drummers are the main vocals of the chant or song. The dancers dance to what is being sung.

The entire night there was a big crowd for the event. The events started around three and didn't even finish until after midnight.

Some of the smiling faces from the night.

The best part of NYO is that every event means something that their ancestors use to practice.
There is an event called the seal hop.  You basically get in the stance of a push up and you have to hop across the gym without letting your belly touch the gym floor.  Unfortunately, this event took place Saturday morning so we did not get to the gym in time to take pictures. 
It originated from the hunter imitating the movement of a seal during the hunt.

Another event is the kneel jump. A contestant is on both knees, then they have to jump forward as far as they can and land on both feet without losing their balance. This event was used for hunters to gain leg muscle needed to lift heavy game off the ground and back to the village.

The Alaskan High Kick was so incredible to watch. A boy starts on the ground, with his sights set on a ball so many inches above him. (the yellow thing is the ball)

He has to balance his body on one arm, lift off, and kick the suspended ball with his right foot. After he kicks it, if he does, he has to come back down, landing on the same foot he kicked with.

Just to show how tall this ball really is...

This event is to show how a person has total control of his mind and body all at once. Scott is the high school sophomore that is shown above.  Here, he touched a ball that was suspended 83 inches.

Another event used to capture total control of one's body and to test balance and endurance during hunting is the one hand reach.
In this event, a person starts in a squatting position, balancing his body on two hands. He then has to keep that balance and reach up to touch the suspended ball.

An event that hones in on the agility to move from ice floe to ice floe is the toe kick. Here, a person has to stand behind a line, with a stick in front of them. They have to jump and very lightly kick the stick then jump off of it. It happens so fast the viewer can barely see them kick the stick. 

By far our favorite events were the one foot kick and the two foot kick. In both of these events, the athlete starts off by jumping simultaneously off both feet. During the one foot kick event, he has to kick the suspended ball with one foot then landing on the ground on the foot he kicked the ball with. During the two foot kick, he has to kick the ball with both feet then land with both feet together on the ground, maintaining balance. These events were to describe the excitement of the hunt. If the hunt was successful, the hunter would do a one foot kick within sight of the village. If it was unsuccessful, he would do a two foot kick.
Here are some pictures of a boy from Newtok doing the two foot kick. He ended up winning the event.

Another event that I was not able to get a picture of was the wrist carry. Two people hold up a stick and walk around the gym with a person hanging from it by their wrist. I have a little fifth grade girl who is not even 50 pounds.  Apparently, she is the perfect athlete for this event since she doesn't weigh much.

These events that are part of NYO are unbelievable.  They take crazy amounts of strength, balance, and focus.  It really was the coolest thing to see something like this, since Illinois doesn't have anything like it!

Oh, and for your information, I finally tried stink fish yesterday! They had a room for the coaches to eat and they let us go in and try some. It was only a week old, so everyone was making fun that it really didn't count, but it did in my book! It wasn't even that green!

I could definitely tell that it was "aged". It definitely had more of a fishy taste - the same with the fish eggs. But it really wasn't that bad and I can see why the like it so much. Will I make it a part of our diet? -Probably not. But when in Rome....

Also, in the coach's room, they made a good point.  The coach's wife was talking about how us "lower state" people like to take the gamey taste out of foods. Well, that is their favorite part. She brought this up when I mentioned there was a head in the soup. Let me show you...

Josh and I laugh at this, because anything he learned about keeping meat or game is totally different up here. It's awesome the neat things we are learning about every aspect of life.

I would say this was a memorable Friday night in Newtok!

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