Gloria Walker’s Legacy

Sportsmanship award honors memory of former NYO coordinator

Gloria Walker, a longtime NYO coordinator and supporter, was named Miss World Eskimo Indian Olympics in 1984. Since 2002, the NYO team sportsmanship award has been given in Gloria’s honor.

Every year, one team is awarded the greatest honor Native Youth Olympic (NYO) Games has to offer. The Gloria Walker Team Sportsmanship Award is voted on by NYO judges and coaches and given to the team that best displays generosity, encouragement, and support toward their fellow athletes, regardless of which team they belong to.

This is what makes NYO unique: Even as athletes compete with one another, they also help each other achieve their very best.

In 2002, NYO’s team sportsmanship award was named for Gloria Walker, a onetime NYO coordinator who was deeply involved in Native sports and in sharing her culture with others, especially students.

“Gloria had a real passion for our people and for the health and future of our kids,” said Brian Walker, Gloria’s husband.

Gloria’s involvement in Native games started early, when she participated as an athlete in the World Eskimo Indian Olympics (WEIO) in the 1970s through the ’90s. She competed in events like the muktuk eating contest, the Indian Stick Pull, and the Eskimo Blanket Toss.

“She was only 5’3”, so she was able to fly very far,” remarked Brian.

Gloria was also named Miss WEIO in 1984 and Miss Cook Inlet Native Association in the 1980s, as well.

As the Indian Education Counselor for Clark Middle School, Gloria brought Alaska Native culture into the school and to other venues, touching the lives of hundreds of students. She worked with NYO legends like Ben Snowball to share culture with young people and danced with the King Island and Kingmuit Dancers. She was passionate about her culture; she went hunting, fishing, and berry-picking and loved Native food.

Gloria, center, won Miss WEIO and Miss Cook Inlet Native Association in the 1980s.

“She helped kids keep their culture alive through dancing, singing, games, and education,” Brian said.

Gloria served as NYO coordinator for several years before she passed away. In 2004, then NYO coordinator Courtney Sullivan worked with Brian to reinstate the annual team sportsmanship award in Gloria’s honor.

“I helped Brian reinstate the award for his wife for sportsmanship and got him back into NYO, got to know his kids,” said Courtney. “That evolved into a friendship and my mentoring Brian to eventually becoming the NYO coordinator. It was a nice connection for his family to stay involved with NYO. Gloria was very involved, so I think she’d be proud.”

Brian remained NYO coordinator for three years, and his children, who were ages 3, 5, and 8 when Gloria passed, grew up competing at NYO, WEIO, and Arctic Winter Games. Brian, who works for the Anchorage School District, also credits Gloria’s passion for working with Alaska Native youth for helping him become involved with working in education.

Today, Gloria’s legacy is also carried on each time another team is awarded for their sportsmanship.

“It was an honor for me and my kids to be able to give this award out every year,” Brian said.

NYO Games are happening April 25 – 27 at the Alaska Airlines Center on the UAA Campus. Find out more about the Games here, or see this year’s schedule of events.