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At World Eskimo-Indian Olympics, fish-cutting contest tests speed and skill

By Heather Hintze 9:08 AM July 17, 2014
FAIRBANKS –

The reds are ready and so are the competitors.

“You just cut so much fish at the beginning of summer when you’re doing humpies and putting fish away it just becomes a quick habit,” said World Eskimo-Indian Olympics competitor Davida Hansen.

She’s last year’s returning champion in the WEIO fish-cutting contest, and she’s ready for a repeat victory. Hansen knows how crucial the skills can be in a fish camp.

“We start when we’re really young, putting away fish, and our grandparents teach us and our moms teach us so it’s pretty important,” she explained.

The competition doesn’t last long.

Marjorie Tahbone from Nome pops up after just half a minute.

“Normally I would cut the head off and cut the belly and work down the back. I eliminated cutting the belly,” she said, divulging her strategy.

She knows 30 seconds is her fastest time ever.

“Man, that’s so great,” her sister Vanessa said as she hugged her.

Just a few minutes after she finished, Tahbone found out she’s now the new world record holder.

“I’m speechless. It wasn’t my intention, it wasn’t a goal, it was just so humbling,” she laughed, her smile beaming ear to ear.

It’s clear Hansen won’t be taking home a trophy this year.

“I did 42 seconds last year. Didn’t do too good this year but that’s alright,” she said.

She’s glad to pass the torch — or ulu — to her fellow female competitors: The top three finishers this year are all women.

“I guess it just goes to show that we know how to handle our fish and we know how to take care of ourselves and live off the land,” Tahbone said.

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