WEIO considers move to Anchorage

World Eskimo-Indian Olympics hope to get more Alaska Natives involved

Posted: Tuesday, August 03, 2004

FAIRBANKS - The leadership of the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics is considering moving the event to Anchorage from its traditional home in Fairbanks in an effort to get more Alaska Natives involved in the games.

The leadership is considering moving the games once every four years, starting in 2007. The membership voted on the resolution in July 2003.

"We're just looking into the possibility," said Gregory Nothstine, WEIO's board of governors chair.

WEIO celebrates Alaska Native athletic games that demonstrate strength, endurance, balance and agility traditionally needed for a subsistence lifestyle. The games also feature Native dancing, clothing, a baby contest and a queen contest.

The games have been held in Fairbanks since 1961, when the city of Fairbanks, through the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce, sponsored the first event as part of the Golden Days celebration. A non-profit corporation took over WEIO a few years later and continues to run the event.

The resolution urged the board to find out if Anchorage was interested in hosting the event. Voting WEIO members are athletes or their representatives who are at least one-quarter Alaskan, Greenland, Siberian and Canadian Eskimo; Aleut; American Indian or First Nations.

"We should give (the membership) some idea about some kind of network support of what's available in Anchorage and compare the cost to Fairbanks," Nothstine said.

WEIO's membership likely will take further action on the issue in 2005 during the annual membership meeting that always takes place at the games, Nothstine said.

He stressed that the idea is to bring the games to "the biggest Native village in Alaska." The event could be more accessible to Southcentral and Southwestern communities, as well as Aleutian Islands residents who may find it difficult to travel to Fairbanks, he said.

Nicole Johnston, the women's record holder of the two-foot high kick event and winner of over 150 WEIO medals, said she voted for the resolution.

"It's always a good idea to keep your options open and available," said Johnston, a Chugiak resident who grew up in Nome and won several events this year.

Anchorage offers better services and shopping, although getting around in Fairbanks is less time-consuming, she said.

But Fairbanksan Carol Pickett, the legendary women's champ for the one-foot high kick, said the games should stay here.

"I don't think it's good for the community," said Pickett, the Alaska Sportsperson of the Year in 1989.

Both women agreed that WEIO's popularity has waned since its heyday decades ago.

"We need to rebuild our event to back to where it used to be," Pickett said.

Fairbanks Gateway Borough Mayor Jim Whitaker said that he will have a meeting this week with WEIO board members to discuss what the borough can do to help WEIO stay in Fairbanks.

"We are going to do everything we can to convince them they have a home and we appreciate them very much," Whitaker said.

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