Kenai Central High School ninth grader Chelsea Plagge, 15, tests out the height of a hanging ball just before a practice run of a high kick game Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017 at the Yaghanen Youth Programs building off of Kalifornsky Beach Road near Soldotna, Alaska. She and dozens of other local kids will participate in the 2017 Peninsula Winter Games Native Youth Olympics Invitational which features traditional Native games this weekend. (Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central High School ninth grader Chelsea Plagge, 15, tests out the height of a hanging ball just before a practice run of a high kick game Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017 at the Yaghanen Youth Programs building off of Kalifornsky Beach Road near Soldotna, Alaska. She and dozens of other local kids will participate in the 2017 Peninsula Winter Games Native Youth Olympics Invitational which features traditional Native games this weekend. (Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion)

Kids gear up for annual Native Youth Olympics

Culture and friendly competition will collide this weekend in the annual Peninsula Winter Games Native Youth Olympics Invitational, during which kids from all over Southcentral Alaska take part in traditional Native games.

A tradition that began in the 1970s, the youth olympics take place in several communities around Alaska. On the Kenai Peninsula, they are hosted by the Kenaitze Indian Tribe’s Yaghanen Youth Programs. Teams of kids from the first through twelfth grades will converge on Mountain View Elementary School gymnasium this Friday through Sunday to display the fruits of months of practice.

“The games the kids will be playing this weekend are traditional Native Alaskan games that they’ve been playing for hundreds or thousands of years,” said Yaghanen Youth Programs Administrator Michael Bernard, who is coordinating the games.

Bernard said he is expecting about 90 kids to attend this year.

“One thing that I really like about the Kenaitze Indian Tribe is that they open up these programs to anybody in the community,” Bernard said.

Kids who want to participate in the youth programming don’t have to be Native, he said. The olympic invitational itself has extra slots allotted for children in the community who are not on a team but want to participate in the games. They can come the day of the event and get help from instructors and the other kids in order to join in, Bernard said.

“Other competitors will be there to help assist,” he said.

This mentality is part of what makes the invitational a bit less about pure competition and a bit more about coming together to celebrate the traditional games.

One of the volunteers this year Nicole Johnston, a former record-holder in the two-foot high kick who was a 2017 inductee into the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. She is also the guest speaker slated for Saturday evening after a Cultural Dinner hosted by the Kenatize Indian Tribe at 5:30 p.m. in the Mountain View gym and before a concert featuring PAMYUA, an Alaska Native group. The evening celebration is also a fundraiser for the Yaghanen Youth Programs and begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Soldotna High School Auditorium. Admission is $10.

This year’s games will kick off at 6 p.m. Friday at the Mountain View gym after an opening ceremony at 5:30 p.m. There are games for kids of all size, strength and ability, Bernard said. Some events are Inuit games while others are more related to the Alaska Athabascan and American Indian styles, he said.

For more information, contact Bernard at mbernard@kenaitze.org or the Yaghanen Youth Center at (907) 335-7290.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

Kids gear up for annual Native Youth Olympics
Kalifornsky Beach Elementary School fifth-grader William Wilson, 11, jumps in the air to kick a hanging ball while practicing a high kick game Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017 at the Yaghanen Youth Programs building off of Kalifornsky Beach Road. He and dozens of other local kids will participate in the 2017 Peninsula Winter Games Native Youth Olympics Invitational which features traditional Native games. (Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion)

Kalifornsky Beach Elementary School fifth-grader William Wilson, 11, jumps in the air to kick a hanging ball while practicing a high kick game Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017 at the Yaghanen Youth Programs building off of Kalifornsky Beach Road. He and dozens of other local kids will participate in the 2017 Peninsula Winter Games Native Youth Olympics Invitational which features traditional Native games. (Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion)

More in News

Council member James Baisden speaks in favor of an amendment to the City of Kenai’s budget that would add funds for construction of a veteran’s memorial column in the Kenai Cemetery during a meeting of the Kenai City Council in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai budget amendment allocates funds for veterans’ columbarium in cemetery expansion

A columbarium is an aboveground structure that houses cremated remains

Council member Alex Douthit speaks in favor of an amendment to the CIty of Kenai’s budget that would reduce funds allocated to the Storefront and Streetscape Improvement Program during a meeting of the Kenai City Council in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Funding reduced for City of Kenai’s storefront improvement grant program

Just over a year after the City of Kenai established its Storefront… Continue reading

Mount Redoubt can be seen across Cook Inlet from North Kenai Beach on Thursday, July 2, 2022. (Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion file photo)
Hilcorp only bidder in Cook Inlet oil and gas lease sale

8 million acres were available for bidding in the sale, spread across Cook Inlet and the Alaska Peninsula region

Council member Phil Daniel speaks during a meeting of the Kenai City Council in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
City of Kenai approves budget

A draft of the document says that the city expects to bring in around $19.5 million in the next year, and spend $20.2 million

A sockeye salmon rests atop a cooler at the mouth of the Kasilof River on Monday, June 26, 2023, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
A sockeye salmon rests atop a cooler at the mouth of the Kasilof River on Monday, June 26, 2023, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kasilof River personal use setnet opening delayed

Low counts for Kenai River early-run king salmon motivate restriction

Ben Meyer, environmental scientist and water quality coordinator for the Kenai Watershed Forum, teaches children about young salmon freshly pulled from the Kenai River during the Kenai River Fair at Soldotna Creek Park in Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, June 7, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai River Fair debuts with array of activities and education

Previously called the Kenai River Festival, the newly refocused fair featured booths and activities dedicated to education about the outdoors, wildlife and ecosystems

A sign welcomes visitors on July 7, 2021, in Seward, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Seward Pride Alliance rallies after bomb threat displaces drag story hour

The event was able to continue after a delay and a fundraising effort has brought in more than $13,000

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
City of Kenai Public Works Director Scott Curtain; City of Kenai Mayor Brian Gabriel; Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Peter Micciche; Sen. Lisa Murkowski; Col. Jeffrey Palazzini; Elaina Spraker; Adam Trombley; and Kenai City Manager Terry Eubank cut the ribbon to celebrate the start of work on the Kenai River Bluff Stabilization Project on the bluff above the Kenai River in Kenai on Monday.
‘The future is bright for the City of Kenai’

Kenai celebrates start of bluff stabilization project after developing for 40 years

A Kenai Peninsula Food Bank truck in the Food Bank parking lot on Aug. 4, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Peninsula Food Bank’s Spring Festival set for Friday

The event will feature a wide swath of vendors, including lots of nonprofits, who will be sharing information about their services

Most Read