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An “Eskimo Ninja” Inspires

Nick Hanson scales a “salmon ladder” in his hometown of Unalakleet.

Traditional Alaska Native Youth Olympic games helped a young man from the village of Unalakleet become a competitor on the nationally-televised program American Ninja Warrior. Nick Hanson said in a recent episode of KNOM’s Story49 that the Native games and the Ninja games have similar skills and a helpful atmosphere of support amid competition.

Native games help athletes practice talents useful in a subsistence lifestyle. Agility, balance, strength, and speed are essential to success in both hunting and the Ninja events. Hanson says both contests are also extremely supportive. That’s because, if something goes wrong when out in the country, “we want our hunters just as strong as we are.”

Hanson uses his “Eskimo Ninja” notoriety to enhance his role as a sports coach. It’s common to see him joined by youngsters on training runs on the beach and through the village. He encourages positive attitudes and determination, despite the challenges young people face growing up in rural Alaska. “Simple goals,” he says, “can change everything.”

In between Ninja seasons, he trains using Native games and available resources in Unalakleet. He built a version of the TV show’s “warped wall” and practices on a “salmon ladder” constructed from driftwood on the Bering Sea beach.

Also featured in the same episode of Story49 is the journey of Miss Alaska from her village of Point Hope to Washington, DC. Her story of faith, strength despite hurt, and pride will be detailed in the January Static. To hear this story made possible through your support, visit our post for this Story49 episode.

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We acknowledge that KNOM Radio Mission is located on the customary lands of Indigenous peoples. 

Based in the Bering Strait region, KNOM broadcasts throughout the homelands of the Iñupiaq, Siberian Yup’ik, Cup’ik and Yup’ik peoples.