Kotzebue 6

Northwest Arctic Television Center
Run Time: 
KYUK-TV, Bethel, AK

Named locations: Kotzebue

Major themes covered: The KYUK TV Productions Collection: interview and more July 4 festivities.  Eskimo Games; Trade Fair; Men's High Kick; Women's High Kick; Festival Games;
4th of July circa 1975; Eskimo language in schools

Native activities shown:  
Individuals Named:
Myrtis McCafferty (now Myrtis McCafferty-Gregg); Rita Curtis; Brad Williams; Arnold Smith; Danny Field; Charlie; Reggie

Native language spoken:

Notes: High-kick competitions were once part of Kivgiq, the Messenger Feast. As each man entered the qargi he tried to kick an inflated animal bladder or ball suspended from the ceiling. An Iñupiaq story tells of a young woman who owned two balls; the larger was the sun, and the smaller the moon. The sun ball fell (or in one version was dropped by Raven) and burst open, bringing light to the world. The circular designs seen on this ball represent the sun and commemorate this
ancient story.
            High kick is a traditional test of agility that has been carried forward as a modern sport. Early visitors to Iñupiaq communities saw children and adults kick balls that hung at head level or higher, using both of their feet (1). With each try, the ball was raised higher (2). Competitors perform the two-footed high kick, as it is known today, in the World Eskimo Indian Olympics, the Native Youth Olympics, and Arctic Winter Games. Jesse Frankson reached a ball that was 7’10” off the floor, which is the current world record for men (as of 2004). Donna Elliott holds the women’s record, at 6’1” (3).                       The high kick was originally part of Kivgiq, the Messenger Feast, a winter dance and gift-giving festival hosted by Iñupiaq villages of northwest Alaska and by Yup’ik communities of Norton Sound, the Yukon-Kuskokwim delta, and Nunivak Island (4). Kivgiq ended in the early years of the 20th century, but North Slope Borough Mayor George Ahmaogak, Sr. helped to revive it at Barrow in 1988.  [retrieved from: http://alaska.si.edu/record.asp?id=284]

Cross-references to other AIFG films: Kotzebue 1-5 & 7-8


  • Berman, Matthew. "Moving or staying for the best part of life: Theory and evidence for the role of subsistence in migration and well-being of Arctic Inupiat residents." Polar Geography, 32:1-2 (2009): 3-16. Print.   *This source provides a geographic perspective on Inupiat subsistence, as well asa sense of how subsistence has been preserved and transformed in the 30-40 years since the Kotzebue films were produced.
  • Burch, Ernest S. Social life in northwest Alaska: the structure of Iñupiaq Eskimo nations. Fairbanks: Univ. of Alaska Press, 2006. Print.  *This source discusses the eleven villages and describes the relationship between  the different clans and families that represent the different villages.
  • Gates, Nancy. The Alaska Almanac: Facts about Alaska, 29th Ed. Portland: Alaska Northwest Books, 2005. Print.  *This source provides information about the history of Eskimo Games. The names and statistics about contestants who hold the records for certain games are also provided. This statistical information draws a link between the young men shown competing in Kotzebue 6 and other young men who have participated in the sport since the 1970s.
  • Williams, Maria Sháa Tláa, ed. The Alaska native reader: history, culture, politics. Durham: Duke Univ. Press, 2009. Print.
  • http://www.inupiatgov.com/
  • http://alaska.si.edu/record.asp?id=284   *This is a link to the Smithsonian website. The museum's Alaska Native Collections houses a traditional high kick ball made out of animal skin. Kotzebue 6 is primarily composed of footage of young men attempting the high kick. This link provides some history with regard to the game, as well as information about how the game has changed and transformed over the years.
  • http://alaska.si.edu/media.asp?id=313&objectid=284  *This is also a link to the Alaska Native Collections at the Smithsonian. This page shows a man attempting the high kick in 1914. This picture provides a visual reference for the transformations that the game has undergone over the years. This illustration links the footage in Kotzebue 6 to history of the men's high kick in general.
  • http://www.nlm.nih.gov/nativevoices/exhibition/healing-ways/healingcommunities/native-games.html *This webpage discusses the healing properties associated with the practice of traditional Eskimo games. The webpage also provides links to other information about Native games and their relationship to subsistence in Eskimo cultures.
  • http://kotzpdweb.tripod.com/city/tradefair04.html  *This is a link to the schedule of events for the 2004 Trade Fair in Kotzebue. The relationship between the Trade Fair and the festival footage contained in Kotzebue 6 is not clear; however, the schedule of events bears a striking resemblance to the events that are filmed in Kotzebue 5 and 7. This schedule of events provides a basic outline of the kinds of activities shown (and not shown) in Kotzebue 5-7.
  • http://kotzpdweb.tripod.com/city/tradefair05.html  *This is a link to the schedule for the 2005 Trade Fair; another useful source for situating and defining the events outlined in Kotzebue 5-7.
  • http://library.uaf.edu/alaska-natives-film-project   *This is a link to another collection of films about Alaska Natives. The collection is housed at the University of Alaska.
  • Smith, Velene Lucy. Kotzebue: A Modern Alaskan Eskimo Community. Ph.D. Thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Utah, 1966.  http://content.lib.utah.edu/utils/getfile/collection/etd3/id/1809/filename/1810.pdf  *This thesis provides some interesting and useful anthropological claims and research about the people of Kotzebue. The information is fairly contemporary with the Kotzebue series of films, which were filmed in the 1970s and early 1980s. Although some of the information is dated by now, it is useful in terms of framing the Kotzebue films in their appropriate historical context. This source also provides a detailed map of the Kotzebue area, which is useful in terms of locating the region that is described throughout the Kotzebue series of films.
  • http://www.nativevillage.org/International%20Council%20of%2013%20INDIGENOUS%20GR/Each%20GR%20Home%20Page/Rita%20Pikta%20Blumenstein/WEIO2007.pdf     *This is a link to the 2007 newsletter and schedule of events for the World Eskimo Indian Olympics. It provides some beautiful photos of people competing in the games, including pictures of contestants attempting the high kick. There are also some articles that discuss the history of Eskimo games. The newsletter also provides descriptions of the different events.
  • www.boem.gov/BOEM-Newsroom/Library/Publications/.../88_0077.aspx  *This is link to a PDF that contains the Kotzebue Sociocultural Monitoring Study from 1988. Much like Smith's thesis, this document provides historical, economic, cultural, and political context for the Kotzebue series of films. This source provides context for the time shortly after the Kotzebue films were made, whereas Smith's thesis provides context for the time shortly before the films were made.

--Emily Thomas, 2013