The Native Youth Olympics Event in Bethel is a Display of Strength, Agility, and Heritage
April 25, 2022
The gym at Bethel Regional High School is as quiet as it can get. All eyes in the bleachers are on the court. Eighth grader Dawnielle Patterson is starting her pre-one-foot high kick ritual. She has already won the category in the Native Youth Olympics, but if she gets this kick she stands to beat her own personal record by 4 inches.
Patterson stands in front of the seal- and caribou-skin ball hanging by a string from a wooden post. She looks intently at the ball, then kicks her leg high and straight at it while pointing her toe like a ballerina or a karate master. This is practice. She takes three large steps backwards to the starting line.
"Then I rock back and forth," says Patterson, shaking her hands at her side. "It calms me down," she explains.