Sealaska Heritage

NEWS_2020 Traditional Games to feature TV’s Eskimo Ninja, athletes from Alaska, Canada

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Event to welcome participants from new competing communities, colleges

February 24, 2020

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Television star athlete Nick Hanson, known as the “Eskimo Ninja” by fans of NBC’s hit show “American Ninja Warrior,” will be a featured speaker and coach at this year’s 2020 Traditional Games in Juneau.

Hanson, who is Inupiaq, is a world-class athlete who grew up training in the village of Unalakleet on the Norton Sound of the Bering Sea. In addition to the show, he competes in the Arctic Winter Games and the World Eskimo Indian Olympics and holds world records for the Scissor Broad Jump and the Toe Kick.

It’s an honor to have an athlete of his caliber appear at the 2020 Traditional Games, said Coach Kyle Worl, adding Hanson also serves as a coach in the Bering Strait region for the Native Youth Olympics (NYO), a statewide competition that includes 10 different events or traditional games to test skills of strength, agility, balance, endurance and focus.

“He is inspiring as an athlete and as a motivational speaker. He challenges athletes to strive for their personal best and to care for themselves, both physically and emotionally. He is the embodiment of the spirit of the games,” Worl said.

This year’s 2020 Traditional Games will feature more than 100 athletes from Metlakatla, Ketchikan, Hoonah, Yakutat, Anchorage, Bethel, Whitehorse and Northern Arizona University. The event will also feature athletes from communities and organizations new to the games, including Craig, Hydaburg, Angoon, Sitka, Nome, the Lower Kuskokwim and Alaska Pacific University.

Local teams will represent Juneau-Douglas High School ( Kalé), Thunder Mountain High School, Yaakoosge Daakahidi High School,  Floyd Dryden Middle School, Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School and the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS), which was the first university in Alaska to have a Traditional Games team. Athletes who qualify at the games will join Team Juneau to compete at the NYO this year.

For the first time, three colleges will represent at the meet. Participation at the college level is something Worl has worked to promote.

“I hope to build teams at the collegiate level so students who participated in Native Youth Olympics in high school can continue the sport in college,” Worl said.

The 2020 Traditional Games will open with a blanket toss, or Nalukataq, led by Hanson. The games are scheduled from 9 am to 9 pm on Saturday, March 7, and from 9 am to 4 pm on Sunday, March 8. Competitors age 11 and up may register now or at the games.

Athletes will compete in 10 events, including the Scissor Broad Jump, Kneel Jump, Wrist Carry, One Foot High Kick and Dene Stick Pull, Inuit Stick Pull, Two Foot High Kick, One Hand Reach, Alaska High Kick and the Seal Hop.

The free event will also feature an artist/vendor market and performances by Tlingit rapper Arias Hoyle and the Woosh.Ji.Een dance group. 

About Native Youth Olympics

​Some athletes who compete at the 2020 Traditional Games will go on to compete at the Native Youth Olympics, a statewide sport that includes 10 different events or games to test skills of strength, agility, balance, endurance and focus. These games are based on hunting and survival skills of the Indigenous people of Alaska and across the Arctic going back hundreds of years. Each year, teams of high school and middle school athletes from across the state travel to Anchorage to take part in the Sr. Native Youth Olympics. More than 500 athletes from more than 100 communities, split into male and female divisions, compete for 1st-5th place medals in the 10 events. Athletes strive to perform at their personal best while helping and supporting their fellow competitors, no matter what team. This is the spirit of the games, to work together toward common goals and learn from the skills and values that allowed Alaska Native people to survive and thrive in some of the harshest conditions. Native Youth Olympics is produced by Cook Inlet Tribal Council. 


The Traditional Games and Juneau’s NYO team are a community collaboration made possible by the following major sponsors: Sealaska, Sealaska Heritage, University of Alaska Southeast, Central Council of Tlingit and Haida, and the Juneau School District. Additional sponsors include RurAL CAP, Select Physical Therapy, Alaska Club, SEARHC, Trickster Company, Tlingit and Haida Community Council, Goldbelt Heritage, Zach Gordon Youth Services, STEPS and UAS Wooch.Een.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee and a Southeast Regional Language Committee.

CONTACT: Amy Fletcher, SHI Media and Publications Director, 907.586.9116,; Kyle Worl, Coach, 907.227.4998,