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  • Kendra Zamzow

Mat-Su Arctic Winter Games Honor the Chickadee as Ambassador

A flock of green and teal jackets identifies the 2024 Mat-Su Arctic Winter Game volunteers, each adjourned with a graphic-designed songbird on its back . Is it a Sparrow? A Junko? A Whiskey Jack?

None of the above. It's a Chickadee!

Angie, the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for Chickaloon Native Village, first nominated the Chickadee as the animal ambassador for 2024 Mat-Su Arctic Winter Game.

In favor of a new, more reverent representation of the spirit of the Games and our animal ambassador, the Mat-Su Chickadee, a culturally significant bird to the Mat-Su Valley, serves as the official animal ambassador of the 2024 games, rather than a caricatured mascot.

“Birds taught us how to speak, then we forgot how to listen,” she said. “Each bird has its own role for us.”

Rain Wade, a culture-bearer for Chickaloon Native Village, said the Chickadee works well for the Arctic Winter Games. “They are non-threatening and non-competitive, having a good time and hanging out in groups. Everyone welcomes them,” like the athletes in the Games. “And they’re just so darned cute.”

The Chickadee is Ne’inne in the Ahtna Dene language. The literal translation is “our thoughts.” The Ahtna say that the call of a Chickadee, or being followed in the forest by a Chickadee, means that someone is thinking of you. It is one of the few birds that stays in the Mat-Su area of Alaska all winter. Ne’iine brings a smile and makes everyone happy even in the dark mid-winter days. Katie Wade, clan grandmother for Chickaloon Native Village, loved to watch the black and white bird flitting in and out of a huge lilac bush in front of her house in Sutton.

The 2024 Mat-Su Arctic Winter Games Ne’inne pins and stickers help preserve memories of athletes, new friends, experiences, and the beauty of Alaska. Next time you see a Chickadee, on a pin, a jacket or in a tree, know that the green and teal volunteers, along with the rest of the Mat-Su community, are thinking of you.


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