Dene Games

Organization Sponsor: Canadian Heritage


Program Description

Games are an important way to understand a people’s worldview and playing and understanding Dene Games will help both Dene and non-Dene understand important aspects of Dene culture. These games are called Dene Games and they had a very significant importance in the life and ultimately the survival of the Dene People. In the past the Dene survived by living off the land, hunting and fishing, and these games enabled the people to stay fit and prepared, as well as offering a form of entertainment during the cold and dark winter months.

Like the Arctic Sports, the Dene Games do not require much for equipment. They are also greatly intertwined with traditional and cultural values which focus on demonstrating sportsmanship, a competitive desire to perform to the best of their capabilities and to have fun with their teammates as well as their opponents. These Games portray an amazing sense of camaraderie where everyone is helping one another achieve their utmost potential.

Students take part in these games beginning in grade 3 and continue to polish their Dene Games skills right into Physical Education 10-20-30 classes. Students learn about the historical perspectives of each game, the rules, and actively take part in class and school-wide competitions.

This website offers many exciting opportunities for teachers, students, parents and community. The website has many components of Dene Games education. The website encompasses lesson plans of the five Dene Games, with rules, pictures, short videos and projects that can be utilized in the classroom.

The Finger Game, Hand Games, Pole Push. Stick Pull, Snowsnake are featured in the Arctic Games.

Funding Sources: 

Canadian Heritage, Government of Northwest Territories, Arctic Winter Games,

Strategies For Sustainability: 

The Dene Games evolved through the Dene peoples adaptations to the land and their will to survive.Having the unique opportunity of teaching in Rae-Edzo, NT, I was able to interview four respected Elders. These Elders have all lived the tradition lifestyle and with that shared some of their amazing life experiences with me. I believe by understanding their incredible  stories you will gain an appreciation of the difficulty and hardships that these people encountered during their life. I often use these stories to  reflect and attempt to comprehend what life during this time must have been like. It is these stories, that I believe, are vital to a students comprehension of the magnitude of the Dene Games evolution and the cultural significance they have on the Dogrib way of life.

Impact Of Program: 

In the last decade, the Aboriginal Sport Circle in the territory says there has been a surge of interest in the Dene games. This website was created to help you pass on knowledge of Dene Games to your students. The website includes lesson plans, contacts to help you locate videos and other teaching materials, and some ideas for how Dene Games can be included in other school programs (School Projects). See Resources for our contact information and see page creator for an opportunity to share your own personal reflections. This past December 2004 Chief Jimmy Bruneau Regional High School hosted a Dene Games Tournament for our young Dene Games athletes. Over 100 students from communities of Ft. Providence, Rae Lakes, Snare Lakes, Dettah, d’Nilo and Rae-Edzo participated. These young athletes ranged in ages from 8 years old to 18 years old. It was a wonderful celebration of Dene culture and traditions.

Key Elements Towards Success: 

The Dene Games are tests of stamina and fitness. In order to enjoy them students need to be in good physical shape.The Dene had many games that fostered strength and agility, patience and teamwork. The games also transmitted Dene worldview and as such contain many elements that help children and adults learn to relate to each other and understand the world.

Each year a series of traditional Dene and Inuit Games workshops are held in communities across the NWT.  The interactive workshops promote and encourage the growth of traditional Aboriginal games, physical activity, cultural pride and understanding and self esteem for youth.  The workshops are taught by experienced staff instructors supported by Youth Ambassador Alumni. Workshops include: history of the games, technical instruction, equipment management, fitness, organizing events and coaching principles.

Challenges To Meet Them: 

The historical and on-going process of colonization and globalization has created pressures on Aboriginal languages and cultures so that each day Aboriginal people around the world Aboriginal people around the world are losing their identity, their culture. Part of the difficulty of organizing teams for the Dene games has been the relative distance between competitors.

Length and Stage of Project: 

Introduced to the Games in 1990, Dene was a males-only sport until 2004

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