(If you don't know what stick gambling (also known as "handgames") is, click this link.)
Of course, I entered the event. Our team consisted of friends Joseph and Michael from the Dehcho, Waylon, a very talented player from Whitehorse, and two ringers from Pelly Crossing. Our team did well, quickly beating everyone we played; everyone, that is, but a team of elders from Tulita who defeated us twice in the double-elimination-style tournament. Still, it was fun and we got some great games in over two days of play.
When we weren't playing, I met new people, chatted with older acquaintances, relaxed, read a book I've been trying to finish for three months, cooled off down at the river, danced at the drum dance, and watched some of the matches. There is nothing quite like a round of handgames when the drums are pounding, the crowd is cheering, and the play is fast.
The drums are pounding, the crowd is cheering, and the play is fast.
Drummers from Tulita (including some of the elders who knocked us out of the competition) keep a quick pace.
Not long after I arrived at the event, what started as a faint woodsmoke smell became a thick mass of smoke. Forest fires from around the Yukon and Alaska were casting their smoky blankets over the mountains.
Decent visibility one moment...
...poor visibility due to forest fire smoke the next.
A late-afternoon sunset.
A ball of fire.
I've never been able to take a picture of the sun like this before.
It's like something from a comic book or science fiction movie. "Born under the red sun of the planet Krypton, the yellow sun of Earth endowed him with powers beyond those of mortal men!"
Speaking of science fiction, this little guy looks like he belongs in a Star Wars movie, leading a band of Ewoks.
There were a few concession stands at the even. I had to stop at one and buy a "banaana" from some enterprising youth.
It stinks when someone alters your sign and you don't have a marker to fix it.
Some enterprising youth. If you buy three bandannas, you get a water gun for free!
The Yukon Stick Gambling Championships aren't just for adults. The youth teams were fun to watch and they have a lot of skill. Playing these guys in the coming years will prove to be a real challenge. If they're already this good, what will they be like after a decade of practice?
The final youth match, John 3:16 plays the Native Princesses. Watch the video below to see who wins.