The Olympics Of The Indigenous World — In Photos

Less than a year before the 2016 Summer Olympics kick off in Rio de Janeiro, thousands of athletes have flocked to Brazil to participate in a totally different sort of competition: the World Indigenous Games, a nine-day tournament billed as the Olympics of the indigenous world.

The first-ever World Indigenous Games attracted more than 2,000 athletes from 20-plus countries. It featured competitions that included spear throwing, tug-of-war, and xikunahati, or "head soccer." Performances and competitions highlighting cultural traditions, including a parade of indigenous women in traditional dress, were also part of the lineup.

Women played a major role in the games — competing, cheering, and participating in cultural events or demonstrations. Some tribes were expected to send delegations that were mostly female, one representative told Refinery29 via email.

The event in the Amazon city of Palmas wasn't all fun and games, however. Some activists staged protests over the Brazilian government's treatment of indigenous people and their right to land.

But even with some discord, the games succeeded in putting the beauty and strength of indigenous nations in the spotlight. And many applauded the effort to bring people from across the globe together to celebrate their cultures.

"It's a powwow in the true sense of the word — a gathering of nations," Felicia Chischilly, a Navajo woman from New Mexico, told the Associated Press.

The games officially wrapped on Sunday. But no need to be too bummed if you missed out on the action this year. Canada is expected to host another gathering in 2017. In the meantime, click through to see stunning photos of the female athletes who gave it their all at the World Indigenous Games.
1 of 18
Photo: Buda Mendes/Getty.
Brazilian indigenous women participate in the tug-of-war competition at the first World Indigenous Games.
Advertisement
2 of 18
Photo: Eraldo Peres/AP Photo.
A Xerente woman celebrates her team's goal against the Brazilian Pataxo team during a soccer match.
3 of 18
Photo: CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP PHOTO /Getty.
An indigenous woman poses with a bow and arrow during a beauty contest. Many athletes showed off their traditional dress during the games.
4 of 18
Photo: Buda Mendes/Getty.
An indigenous woman carries a painted log during the opening ceremony.
5 of 18
Photo: CHRISTOPHE SIMON/ AFP PHOTO /Getty.
A woman takes part in the indigenous beauty contest.
6 of 18
Photo: Eraldo Peres/AP Photo.
Maori women from New Zealand take part in a competition.
Advertisement
7 of 18
Photo: Eraldo Peres/AP Photo.
Xerente women watch a ritual dance before the start of a soccer match against the Pataxo, a fellow Brazilian tribe.
8 of 18
Photo: Eraldo Peres/AP Photo.
Xerente women celebrate a goal against the Pataxo Brazilian tribe team in a soccer match.
9 of 18
Photo: Eraldo Peres/AP Photo.
Canadian player Jonerly Jacob, left, disputes the ball with indigenous player from Brazil’s Socorro Xerente during a soccer match.
10 of 18
Photo: Buda Mendes/Getty Images.
Indigenous women participate in a parade called "International Indigenous Beauty."
11 of 18
Photo: CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP PHOTO /Getty Images.
A woman takes part in an indigenous beauty contest during the Games.
Advertisement
12 of 18
Photo: Eraldo Peres/AP Photo.
Mongolian indigenous women take part in an archery demonstration during the first day of competition.
13 of 18
Photo: Eraldo Peres/AP Photo.
Terena indigenous women from Brazil look on before the start of the canoe event at the World Indigenous Games.
14 of 18
Photo: Eraldo Peres/AP Photo.
A Gaviao girl plays tug-of-war during the World Indigenous Games.
15 of 18
Photo: AP Photo/Eraldo Peres.
Brazilian Kayapo women perform a ritual dance during the first day of competition.
16 of 18
Photo: Eraldo Peres/AP Photo.
An Embera Gonna woman from Panama dances before the start of the ceremony of the sacred fire of the World Indigenous Games.
Advertisement
17 of 18
Photo: Eraldo Peres/AP Photo.
Indigenous people from various ethnic groups and countries dance during the opening ceremony.
18 of 18
Photo: Buda Mendes/Getty.
Fireworks mark the celebrations at the World Indigenous Games.
Advertisement