Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Eskimo Ninja's story inspires students


December 16, 2021

Kyle Clayton

American Ninja Warrior and "Eskimo Ninja" Nick Hanson spoke to Haines School students in the elementary school gym on Monday, Dec. 13.

"Eskimo Ninja" Nick Hanson came to the Haines School this week, bringing a message of self-assurance and confidence for students.

A 33-year-old Inupiat Eskimo from Unalakleet, Hanson has appeared for eight seasons on the hit TV show "American Ninja Warrior," where athletes compete for prize money by competing in navigating an obstacle course.

He has placed in the show's top 12 overall finishers and won a $10,000 cash prize for being the first to scale an 18-foot "mega-wall" on the program.

But about 10 years ago, Hanson was a college drop-out working as an assistant sports coach in the Norton Sound village of 700 people, depressed about the toll that drugs and alcohol was taking on his friends, some with whom he'd competed with on sports teams.

An eighth-grade student he knew was familiar with the TV show and suggested Hanson try out for it. His success on the show has opened doors for him, including as a lecturer and inspiration to youths in rural Alaska communities.

"My message is to know who you are and to tell the truth," he said during an interview with the CVN. "If you know who you are – the good, the bad, the ugly and the awesome – if you know those things and accept them, then you can overcome challenges like I have in my past," Hanson said.

Hanson said his challenges included the derision of his peers toward a person of mixed race. He also grew up with an alcoholic mother who has since found a way to beat her addiction.

Hanson said he works out about four hours a day and competes in various athletic contests, including the World Eskimo Indian Olympics, a competition of Native tests of strength, including one where competitors in a "push-up" position mimic a seal by walking and hopping on their knuckles.

An obstacle course he built of driftwood in his Unalakleet back yard has appeared on the show.

Haines High School junior Uriel Bravo said Hanson's message gave hope and encouraged people to find the good in people.

"I liked that he was very honest with us but kept it funny. He tried to connect with us on a different level," Bravo said. "It was really inspiring."


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