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The Northern Athapaskan people, or Dene, are the aboriginal inhabitants of the Northern Regions of Canada and Alaska. The Dene consists of several regional groups, all of whom speak their own language. Certain differences do exist, but neighboring groups can usually understand each other’s language. This is also true of the Dene Games where there are differences in the same game played by different Dene Regions. Games were not only intended for fun at gatherings but also to prepared people to survive on the land.


Finger Pull

The Finger Pull is a test of strength and endurance of the arm and pulling hand. One player is on offense and the other on defense. For the player on defense, pain endurance may also be a determining factor in deciding the winner of the contest. It is a game that comes from people of Alaska. 

Hand Games

Also known as Stick Gambling, it's one of the most important traditional games among the Yukon and NWT First Nations. Festive occasion provide a good opportunity to play as Hand Games is a game of guessing and deceiving, played to a chorus of drums that makes the liveliness of all Dene Games.

Snow Snake

Played in the winter and often used to test accuracy, power or technique.  Traditionally a hunting tool to catch small game, in competition it is used as a distance game. Similar to the Javelin in track and field, the person that throws the spear the farthest wins. With Snow Snake however the spear is thrown underhand and along the ground.


Stick Pull

The concept of the game is to pull the stick from your opponent’s hand. Bear grease was used to grease the stick and to simulate catching slippery fish.

Pole Push

A teams of four athletes tries to push the other team out of a circle. A game that requires maximal strength and endurance.

Dene Games
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