Students in Fort Simpson took part in a week-long Dene games and Arctic sports workshop.
Instructors from the Aboriginal Sports Circle (ASC) NWT were in the community to teach students at both schools about a number of traditional games and the origins of how those games came to be.
Since the kids were more familiar with Dene games, the camp put an emphasis on Arctic sports, said Carson Roche, program co-ordinator with ASC.
“Some of the kids are pretty good,” he said.
The week incorporated well known games such as stick pull and the one and two foot high kick for high school students while adding lesser known games such as back slap and hide the mitten for the younger students.
“With the younger group we try to incorporate more group activities, more running games. If you’re trying to get all the kids sit around and do one foot high kick it doesn’t work. We find that running games work a lot better with the kids,” said Roche.
Roche was joined by an Arctic sports and a Dene games instructor to run the camp.
It was more than just a week of fun and games for the students, the instructors made sure to teach the students about how each game came to be, he said.
“They’ve got the caribou skipping game, we’ve got back slap, there’s hide the mitten where they’re all in a circle. Most of these games have a story behind them, something to do with survival,” said Roche.
Each game served a purpose to the community ranging from helping to catch fish to keeping kids entertained while their parents were taking care of daily responsibilities. Roche said it was important the kids understood that.
“We don’t want the students thinking they’re just playing games,” he said. “This what our ancestors did and we want them to know it’s part of our culture and we’re trying to keep these games alive,” said Roche. “Back slap looks like they’re just running around cones but back in the day they didn’t have Skidoo’s so the adults would let them play that game so they could build up endurance and get stronger because they did a lot of walking.”
The sport circle offers programs for traditional games, archery and lacrosse. Roche said they have gone to over a dozen different communities this year and plan to visit more. Next week the ASC will be in Fort Providence for a lacrosse camp.
“I guess we just have a well known program,” he said.