Frederik Meijer Honors College to host Arctic Games

GVL / Elyse Greenwood

GVL / Elyse Greenwood

Elyse Greenwood

Temperatures are dropping quickly and snow has officially fallen at Grand Valley State University, a sure sign that winter is near. For the last few years, students at GVSU have used these chilly conditions as an opportunity to enjoy the season and learn more about indigenous cultures — games and reindeer included. 

The Frederik Meijer Honors College will be presenting the third annual Arctic Games in the outdoor lobby of Kindschi Hall on Thursday, Nov. 29 from 9 to 11 a.m. 

Students enrolled in the Junior Seminar course titled Games in Circumpolar World will be recreating some of the traditional games that resemble those played by the Inuit and Sami people. Games and sports were an important tradition in the Sami and Inuit cultures, as they helped the people develop skills that were essential for everyday survival in the harsh environment.

“There are 19 students who have been looking at the early games of the indigenous Arctic, the Inuit of Greenland and Eastern Arctic of Canada and the Sami of Scandinavia,” said Dr. John Kilbourne, GVSU Movement Science professor and coordinator of the event. “We have studied their culture, business, sharing and all of the reciprocity. Each student has to research a game or project, build it, learn how to play it and then teach it.”

Some of the games included in the event are the Alaskan High Kick, Caribou Jump, Bone Games, Blanket Toss and Lassoing. Junior Zoe Menard is especially excited to test out the Inuit drum that she and a partner have been working on.

“My partner and I are making an Inuit drum, and we will be showing people how to use it and play it. Then we will be explaining why they used it and what they used it for,” Menard said. “I am excited to see if our drum will actually make noise.”

Another aspect of the event that many students are looking forward to is live reindeer presented by GG Reindeer Farm in Caledonia, Mich. Reindeer were an essential part of the livelihood of the Sami people; they were a primary source of food and clothing, a part of their religious past and used for necessary chores such as pulling sleds. The antlers were also commonly used to make handles, knives and even some of the games.

For the students, this culminating event is a way to celebrate all they have learned this semester. Through these projects, the students have gained a deeper understanding and knowledge of these cultures that common learning techniques sometimes fail to provide.

“In the Sami and Inuit culture, they learn by doing. It wasn’t about learning through book readings and things like that,” Kilbourne said. “My goal for the class is to understand where games came from and what are they about on a deeper level.”

While the class is undoubtedly reaping benefits from this interactive and educational event, attendees will also gain a unique perspective through the games and activities.

“A big part of this mission here is to broaden everyone’s understanding of people unlike themselves,” Kilbourne said. “That’s my main goal.”

The whole Allendale and GVSU community is invited and encouraged to attend this free event to celebrate the past traditions of the Inuit and Sami.