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2008 Arctic Winter Games return to birthplace in Yellowknife

Posted: Saturday, March 11, 2006


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  Two-year old Keely Burdine dances while Soldotna Elementary School students perform at halftime during a basketball game at Cook Inlet Academy. Photo By Charles Pulliam

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor John Williams and Dale Bagley, president of the 2006 Arctic Winter Games Host Society, receive a painting presented to them by Wendy Bilerou, AWG 2008 Yellowknife Host Society president and deputy mayor of Yellowknife.

Photo By Brian Keith

Like the salmon, the 2008 Arctic Winter Games will return to their birthplace two years from now when they are held where the games originated in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada.

This will be a special homecoming, since it marks 40 years since the inception of the Games, and the 20th time they have been held.

The original games were the work of Stuart Hodgson and James Smith, commissioners of the Northwest Territories and the Yukon. After discussing it with an enthusiastic Governor of Alaska Walter J. Hickel, the first games were born in 1970 in Yellowknife with 500 athletes and three contingents: Alaska, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories.


Two-year old Keely Burdine dances while Soldotna Elementary School students perform at halftime during a basketball game at Cook Inlet Academy.

Photo By Charles Pulliam

“It’s going to be the biggest homecoming...there’s big excitement in Yellowknife,” said Tony Whitford, current commissioner of the Northwest Territories during a Northwest Territories 2008 Arctic Winter Games Host Society gathering at the Kenai Visitors and Convention Center Thursday night.

Many of the people in charge of organizing the 2008 games were present at the 2006 games to shadow their Alaska counterparts, as well as observe the general procedure to help with planning.

“What the real benefit of shadowing has done for us is to let us see how intimately everything is interlocked in the whole thing,” said Cathie Bolstad. “If one thing changes, then everyone has to adjust. It was seeing it real life, real time. We got to see how things operate when they don’t go exactly according to plan.”

A key speaker during the formal part of the night was Floyd Rolland, Governor of the Northwest Territories, who was complimentary toward the Alaskans who have participated this year.

“Looking at the athletes shows me how well they’ve done,” said Rolland, acknowledging the hard work accomplished by volunteers and others during this year’s Games.

The speeches were preceded by a Dena’ina drum group, consisting of drummers William Landry, Lawrence Saboorin, Kile Krutko and Richard Elleze. The performers treated the guests with a drum prayer, followed by “Circle dance,” which received enthusiastic applause.

Yellowknife, capital of the Northwest Territories, is home to about 20,000 residents, and its main economy is gold and diamond mining.

Yellowknife was so named because of the copper knives used by the local Dene and Chipewyan; pin replicas of the knives were given out by the 2008 Host Society during Thursday’s event.

There are eight official languages in the Northwest Territories, but the five that are evident in Yellowknife are English, French, Chipewyan, Dogrib, and South and North Slavey.

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