Teams from across the Yukon competed in a hand games tournament this weekend, playing with more hand sanitizer and some masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's just so much fun," said Jackie Callahan, who organized the tournament at the Kwanlin Dün Rink in Whitehorse. "The energy, the drumming, getting to see people we don't always get to see."
Thirteen teams joined from around the territory — including from Carmacks, Teslin and Watson Lake — and played around 24 games Saturday and Sunday, said Callahan. The winning team, Kaska Novas, was from Ross River.
Masks and hand sanitizer were on hand, and Callahan said they tried to be as safe as possible. But, she said, it's hard to distance when playing hand games on the mat.
The tournament was held at an ice rink so they could accommodate more people, in line with COVID-19 guidelines. Callahan said his may be the last tournament for a while due to restrictions on the size of indoor gatherings.
"We usually hold one Christmastime, but we knew we weren't going to be able to because of COVID," said Callahan, noting it was already getting chilly this weekend at the rink.
So, she said, a few people "threw it together."
Hand games are popular traditional games among Yukon First Nations. Playing to a chorus of drums, contestants use hand gestures and elaborate signals to find and conceal objects. They've been played for generations across Dene traditional territories and beyond. "The easiest way to learn is to actually get in there and actually play," said Callahan.