The World Eskimo-Indian Olympics were held last week in Fairbanks, Alaska, and Al Jazeera America reported on some of the 200 indigenous athletes in attendance:
Ask WEIO athletes where they are from and the answer is always two parts. First is the name of a village far from the road system, usually on the coast or along an interior Alaska river. Chevak. Galena. Rampart. Deering. That is where family is, where subsistence hunting, fishing and gathering take place, where Native languages are spoken, where traditional games are practiced.
Next comes where the athlete lives now. More often than not, it is one of Alaska’s larger cities, like Anchorage or Fairbanks. The urban/rural push-pull is a constant in Alaska. Culture and family draw people to the villages, but better jobs and education in the cities and, sometimes, social dysfunction and poverty in the villages, push people out.
The games, which celebrate skills needed to live a rural life, are in flux.
Read the article and see more photos from Reportage photographer Katie Orlinsky, on the Al Jazeera America website.