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Nunavut Sled-dog Race to Revive Inuit Traditions

Thanks to CBC News for this article. Nunavut sled-dog race hopes to revive Inuit tradition CBC News The age-old Inuit tradition of getting around on...

Joy  |  Apr 4th 2007


Crowley and dogs.jpg

Thanks to CBC News for this article.

Nunavut sled-dog race hopes to revive Inuit tradition
CBC News

The age-old Inuit tradition of getting around on dogsled could make a come back in the eastern Arctic, if organizers of Nunavut’s newest dog sled race, which wrapped up Monday, have their way.

The first-ever Qimualaniq Quest, a 320-kilometre race between Iqaluit and Kimmirut on south Baffin Island, finished Monday with longtime Iqaluit resident and lawyer Paul Crowley and his team winning the top prize of $5,000.

Qimualaniq Quest winner Paul Crowley with his team of dogs at the end of the race Monday.

“I know the tip of the iceberg of the knowledge that Inuit who ran dogs, not just for a hobby like me but for surviving and thriving,” he said Monday after the race. “How much they know, I’d love to even see a bit of that revived.”

Competitive dog sled races are commonly associated with big races in the Yukon and Alaska. Inuit in the eastern Arctic have used dogs, especially the hardy Canadian Inuit breed of dogs, for centuries to hunt, trap and travel.

But in modern times, snowmobiles are the preferred mode of transportation in Nunavut.

Having more competitive races in Nunavut, such as the Qimualaniq and the Nunavut Quest an annual week-long race running since 1999 in the northern part of the territory could “bring back what we used to use before,” race director Moonie Lyta said.

“The snowmobiles came around and they’re fast and they can go places where they want to, but [are] not as reliable as the dog teams,” Lyta said.

“It’s modern conveniences: we don’t do horse and buggy in the south, and we don’t do dog teams in the north,” Crowley said. “But as the price of gas goes up, maybe the dog teams will become more important.”

Dogs take time, commitment
One problem, said polar adventurer and second-place finisher Matty McNair, is the shrinking number of purebred Canadian Inuit dogs in the North. As well, keeping the dog teams require a lot of time and commitment, but something has to be done, she said.

“This is the last indigenous breed to North America. There are not many left; there are maybe 2,000 in the world,” McNair said.

“A lot of interbreeding has caused them to have floppy ears, and they don’t carry their tails snapped, and they don’t have that double-coat on anymore. So there are not a lot of purebreds left.”

Northern Greenland has bans in place on the import of other breeds, in order to keep sled dogs there pure. No such restrictions exist in the Canadian Arctic, but organizers hope the race will give sled dogs more popularity.

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