Arctic Games to highlight world traditions

Courtesy Photo /

Dr. John Kilbourne

Courtesy photo

Courtesy Photo / Dr. John Kilbourne

Nate Smith

While games like caribou jumping and lassoing could be seen simply as rural pastimes, in many cultures around the world these activities have a deeper and almost sacred meaning.

On Nov. 30, students from the Frederick Meijer Honors College at Grand Valley State University will present an Exhibition of Traditional Arctic games. In addition to displaying live reindeer, the exhibit will highlight games from both the Inuit of the Eastern Arctic of Canada and the Saami of Scandinavia as well as the culture and heritage that surround them.

“It’s important to know that we’ve participated in games throughout our evolution,” said John Kilbourne, professor of movement science at GVSU. “Some of the games students will be participating in have been around thousands of years.”

Kilbourne’s students will present a variety of games, ranging from blanket tossing to board games. Each game presented gives a glimpse into a different aspect of Arctic culture.

“We’ve put together quite a few games for the exhibit,” said Ashley Helm, one of the students presenting at the exhibit. “The people of the tribes in Canada and Norway have played these games for generations.”

The exhibit itself is part of Kilbourne’s course, which is a seminar for junior honors students titled “In Search of the Meaning of Games in Life: A Journey to the Circumpolar World.”

“This is the first time something like this has been brought to Grand Valley,” Kilbourne said. “This will really allow students to experience an important part of arctic culture.”

The promotion of understanding when it comes to the people of the Arctic is the main goal of the exhibit.

“By participating in these games people are able to connect with other cultures,” Helm said. “Sometimes we get too caught up in American culture and games, it’s great to be able to step back and see the way other people live their lives.”

Students from area K-12 schools as well as GVSU students are invited to participate. The event begins at 9 a.m. and hot chocolate will be provided for attendees.

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