World Indigenous Games

The World Indigenous Games is a multisport event, which involves over 2,000 indigenous athletes competing against one another. These athletes come from all across the world to unite and compete fairly in this event (approximately 30 countries) (2015). Throughout the first three days athletes mingle and bond in their area of sport/games before entering the ten-day competition.[1] The Games are governed by the Inter Tribal Council, a Brazilian indigenous peoples NGO that has staged Brazil's national Indigenous Games since 1996. The first edition of the Games was held in Palmas, Brazil, from October 23 to November 1, 2015. The Games are expected to be held intermittently thereafter, and will feature competitive sports and non-competitive demonstration events.[2] Throughout history, indigenous peoples have had many traditional sports and dances. It is through their history that they have turned these into competitive games and have made it an influential impact on the world and their people's culture.[3] These games consist of body paint replacing sportswear, bare feet instead of sneakers and a looser conception of competition that comes with little value to winning.[4]


The World Indigenous Games grew from the Brazilian Indigenous Peoples Games. There have been 12 editions of the national games, during which approximately 1,500 athletes took part.[5] The World Indigenous Games also known as the Indigenous Olympics, is similar to any other Olympic Games. It started with a variety of sports, traditional openings and closings ceremonies and indigenous participants from all over the world.[6]

Historical Body Paint – Body painting is an ancient tradition that carries deep meaning and value to its people. The art contains a high-spirited significance to the Indigenous people thus the reason why they must wear body paint during the games.[7] It is a sign of respect for their land and all represents all their people in one. Different designs represent different family relationship, social position, tribe, ancestors and tracts of land. For example, B. Spencer states that in Arnhem Land the people decorate the bodies of young boys for initiation ceremonies. They are painted in tribe/clan totems to the upper body and thighs. Everything little details has a meaning and represents something. This comes down the design, the colour, the placing of design and who it is put on too.[8]

Events and competitions

The World Indigenous Games consist of many events and competitions. They compete in a variety of sporting events. These include Western style competitions such as football and athletics as well as many traditional games: rustic race, spear toss, traditional canoeing, corrida de tora, xikunahati. Events such as archery, swimming, wrestling and tug of war are also a part of these games.[9] There are many events that are non-competitive. This is to show and demonstrate the respect of heritage. They do this by playing traditional sports and celebrating with dances. Many other non-competitive events showcase the celebration of their culture. They include this in the games by forming social forums, activities for the indigenous women and lectures and fairs for all to join and listen too. It is expected for indigenous people to run the Olympics however, important guests could be invited to talk or take part somehow in the games. The main reason for the games is to bring all indigenous people together from around the world. This creates diversity to be closer and helps express the indigenous cultures and traditions.

Traditional games

Wild tree-trunk

This game is a crowd favourite, and is similar to a relay. Nine or more participants are expected to sprint 500 metres each around a red dirt arena. Whilst running they carry a 100 kg chunk of tree on their shoulders.


Participants bodies are covered with traditional paintings and have to be bare chested. They then line up on a palm of leaves with their bows, 40 metres away from their target. Their target is small fish leaping in and out of the water. Those who spear the most fish gain the points. The highest possible score to achieve is done by drilling the arrow right into the eye.


This particular event resembles football. However no body part but the head is allowed to touch the ball.

Overall these Olympics are not about competition but are about celebration.[10]

List of World Indigenous Games

Games Year Host Dates Ref
I 2015 Palmas, Tocantins, Brazil October 23 - November 1
II 2017 Treaty 6 Territory, Alberta, Canada July 1 - 9

Participating countries

Over 30 countries participate in the Indigenous Games. Within that 30 more that 2000 athletes participate. Some countries that perform in these games are listed below. Marchand, Dawn Marie (2011).[11]

  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Congo
  • Ecuador
  • Ethiopia
  • French Guiana
  • Guatemala
  • Mexico
  • Mongolia
  • New Zealand
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Philippines (Aeta, Dumagat, Ifugao peoples)[12]
  • Russia
  • United States of America
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela


  1. Tecnologia, CRP. "The Games". Retrieved 2016-05-17.
  2. Tecnologia, CRP. "The Games". Retrieved 2016-05-17.
  3. Cuiaba, Felipe Dana of Associated Press in (2013-11-15). "Indigenous Games in Brazil: 'competition is a thing for the west'". the Guardian. Retrieved 2016-05-17.
  4. Cuiaba, Felipe Dana of Associated Press in (2013-11-15). "Indigenous Games in Brazil: 'competition is a thing for the west'". the Guardian. Retrieved 2016-05-17.
  5. Taylor, Alan. "The World Indigenous Games". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2016-05-17.
  6. "Incredible pictures from the first World Indigenous Games held in Brazil". Business Insider. Retrieved 2016-05-17.
  7. Spencer.B (2001).
  8. "Aboriginal Body Painting Art". Artlandish Aboriginal Art Gallery. Retrieved 2016-05-17.
  9. Tecnologia, CRP. "I World Indigenous Games - 2015". Retrieved 2016-05-17.
  10. Cuiaba, Felipe Dana of Associated Press in (2013-11-15). "Indigenous Games in Brazil: 'competition is a thing for the west'". the Guardian. Retrieved 2016-05-17.
  11. Marchand,, Dawn Marie. (2011). "Circle of Courage Infusion into the Alberta Indigenous Games 2011". Reclaiming children and youth.
  12. "Philippine tribes vie in World Indigenous Games". Philippine Star. October 15, 2015. Retrieved October 15, 2015.

Further reading

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