For time immemorial, Native peoples of the circumpolar areas of the world have gathered in small villages to participate in games of strength, endurance, balance, and agility. Along with these athletic games, dancing, story telling, and other audience participation games took place. This provided an opportunity for friendly competition, entertainment and laughter. The hosts provided food and lodging, and visitors brought news from surrounding villages and expanded opportunities for challenge building and renewing old and new friendships. This is the background of the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics and the atmosphere, which we seek to replicate.
In 1961, the City of Fairbanks, through the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce, sponsored the World Eskimo Olympics as a segment of the emerging Golden Days Celebration. The chamber’s involvement continued through the 1969 games. The late A. E. “Bud” Hagberg, and now retired Frank Whaley, Wein Airways employees, who are credited as the organizers of the World Eskimo Olympics, co-chaired the first several events, while Bill English and late Tom Richards, Sr., pilots of the airlines, served as emcees. The rapidly developing State of Alaska, along with the movement of the more powerful Western civilization into rural Alaska led to a fear the games might be forgotten and not passed on and shared with others.