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Arctic Winter Games: Tuesday, January 31-Team Alaska collects 8 ulu medals

Alohna Johnson of Nome receives the Fair Play Award at the Dene Stick Pull games
Courtesy of Team Alaska, Arctic Winter Games
Alohna Johnson of Nome receives the Fair Play Award at the Dene Stick Pull games

As of Tuesday morning, Team Alaska had racked up eight ulus in the Arctic Winter Games 2023. The prized ulu is a medal, shaped like a curved knife used to cut fish and scrape hides. They come in gold, silver and bronze.

So far Alaska has collected two gold, four silvers and 9 bronze ulus.

One of the gold ulu winners, Leah Marie Evans of Homer, is not an Alaska Native, but has been involved in Native Olympics since the 8th grade. She’s now a senior and says she’s drawn to the games, because they promote the strength and endurance, necessary to survive in the Arctic.

"Some would be to keep fit. Others like the Scissor Broad Jump would help you to go across ice flows," said Evans, recounting the purpose of the games. "There's also a lot of sportsmanship to help others do their best, even if they’re beating you."

"Even if they’re from another team, it doesn’t matter," she said. "You help them and you support them like your own teammates."

Evans is 17 and on the Homer Halibut team.

Colton James Paul is another Arctic Sport gold medalist.

Paul, who is 18, says in his Arctic Winter Games bio that he got an early start, learning techniques from his brother at the age of seven. Suicide later claimed his brother's life. As Paul competes in the sport his brother loved, he tries to spread awareness about suicide.

Team Alaska also had two silver ulu winners:

  • Austin Trube Murphy from Bird Creek.  He’s 14. His silver medal is in the Alpine Skiing Giant Slalom.  
  • Lydia Aurora Grace Alverts of Palmer is 17 and from the Chickaloon Tribal Team.  She took a silver in the Arctic Sports Triple Jump.  

There are also four bronze medalists:

  • Brance Burdette Robinson of Anchorage in the Alpine Skiing Giant Slalom, 
  • Charity Gordon of Homer in the Arctic Sports, Two-Foot High Kick. 
  • Leif Richard of Juneau in the Arctic Sports Triple Jump, who says his personal role model is his coach, Kyle Worl.   
  • Amber Jeannine Vaska from Fairbanks in the Arctic Sports Triple Jump,   

Alohna Johnson from Nome was awarded the Fair Play Award at the medal ceremonies for the Dene Stick Pull Games yesterday. Games officials said she displayed incredible energy and respect for all people she came in contact with, and exemplified the sacred virtue of sharing, one of the seven Dene Principles and Values.
Johnson's dad, Boggles, also received the Dene Fair Play Award when he competed in the Arctic Winter Game in 2004.

Team Alaska has more than 240 athletes who come from 30 communities across the state. Yukon Territories in leading in the number of ulu medals with seventeen. Alberta North is in second place with 15. Northwest Territories has collected the most gold, with seven ulus.


Rhonda McBride has a long history of working in both television and radio in Alaska, going back to 1988, when she was news director at KYUK, the public radio and TV stations in Bethel, which broadcast in both the English and Yup’ik languages.