Dene hand games a battle of wits at AWG
Not all of the sports at the 2018 Arctic Winter Games involve strength or speed. The Dene hand games are about outsmarting your opponent.
Rhythmic drumming took over the Chief Lamalice Complex in Hay River, Canada, and drew quite a crowd.
"The point of the game is to deceive the other team. You hid an object like a pin back or a coin, and the point is to deceive the other team about which hand it’s in,” Wasilla athlete Robert Strick explained.
Also known as stick gambling, the game is one of Team Alaska’s favorites. Misty Wilmarth-Agoff from Palmer is one of the more spirited athletes on the mats, making funny faces, waving her hands and cheering loudly.
"This is so much fun because I get to interact with the girls. I know them more,” Misty said. "Especially with the Greenland team, anytime I’m playing against them, I’m smiling the whole time. You get this bond you wouldn’t normally.”
It’s a battle of wits and trickery as they hide and pass the tokens around, a seemingly easy but exhausting task as they bounce up and down on their knees, sometimes for the better part of an hour.
"It gets tiring after a while. With the drums, you get active with the atmosphere,” Strick said.
Misty said the Dene athletes are like one big family. What makes hand games special is a fun environment with friends from around the world.
"Everyone is gracious and kind and loving. They always have good sportsmanship. It’s never about beating each other it’s about encouraging one another,” Misty said.
Sharing their love of culture and tradition over a slight of hand.
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