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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


March 23, 2002 - Issue 57


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Healy Musher Honored as Doyon Citizen of the Year

by Mary Beth Smetzer Fairbanks Daily News Miner
Ramy Brooks, his wife Cathy and daughters Molly and AbbyShortly after Ramy Brooks graciously accepted the Doyon Ltd. Citizen of the Year Award Friday he headed for the door.

But before the Healy dog musher could clear the hallway outside the Westmark Gold Room he was intercepted by well-wishers and an invitation by elder Richard Frank to speak to the children at the Minto school. He quickly accepted.

But Brooks had something else to do first.

"I'm going to go back to Nome to get a paycheck," he said with a big smile.

Looking rested and lightly wind-burned from a blistering run in the 2002 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, Brooks will collect $55,000 for his second-place finish in the 1,049 mile race at the Iditarod banquet scheduled for Sunday night in Nome. He completed the race in 9 days, 49 minutes and 18 seconds.

The winnings are a boon since Brooks has 60 canine mouths to feed in addition to his own family, wife Cathy and daughters, Abby and Molly.

The 33-year-old long-distance racer, part Yup'ik, part Athabascan, has an illustrious dog mushing heritage extending back several generations. His mother Roxy Wright and his grandfather Gareth Wright share many world dog racing titles.

All of the above and others, he called "people on the river" he credits for his successful mushing career.

Brooks started racing as a child, winning his first sled dog race at age 4 and by the age of 14 he had won each class of the Junior North American Championship races.

He was in his early 20s when he took up competitive distance mushing and he has since competed in the all the major races around the state, winning the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race in 1999. In 2000 Iditarod he placed fourth.

But despite all of his mushing achievements, Brooks told the crowd at the Doyon annual meeting that "This is the greatest award I could ever get," holding up the framed, bead-trimmed citation.

Brooks, who grew up in the Yukon River village of Rampart until he was a young teen-ager, said he didn't have basketball or football heros to emulate as a child. "I had people on the river." Mushers like George Attla and Carl Huntington.

"I remember playing with friends on the riverbank thinking we'd be champion dog mushers someday," he said.

Two other role models Brooks saluted were standing behind him, members of the Doyon Executive Board; his grandmother Miranda Wright and state Sen. Georgianna Lincoln.

"I owe this to a lot of people like them who made me dream," Brooks said. "They were role models who taught me how to live my dreams."

Brooks plans to continue to interact with youth serving as a role model. "I want to help teach them to live their dreams," he said.

In a hurried hallway interview, Brooks summed up his latest trip down the Iditarod trail with "It was an incredible ride."

"At the start of the race I made a comment to Cathy and Mom. 'This is just an incredible team. If anyone beats us they have phenomenal team,' and Martin (Buser) did."

Brooks admitted to having a "few little doubts" along the trail. The hardest decision, he said, was when he was getting ready to leave Takotna where he left a couple of injured dogs to be sent home. "I decided to stick to my game plan. It was the best thing I did to stay on schedule.

"I learned a lot about what I'll have to do next year to do a little better than Martin," he added.

With the latest Iditarod barely under his belt, Brooks is looking forward to the year ahead and working with puppies and yearlings, figuring out equipment needs, and lining up sponsors so he can afford be on the trail next March.

And he's already planning next year's strategies. Brooks just grinned when queried.

"I'll show them to you in the race next year," he said.

Also honored at the Doyon Ltd. annual meeting were: Benedict Jones Sr. of Koyukuk as Elder of the Year; Victor Joseph, 2002 Daaga' Community Service Award; Jessica Black, 2002 Chief Andrew Isaac Future Leader Award; Agnes Sweetsir, 2002 Daaga' Community Service Award, and the late Rosemarie Maher for her contributions to Doyon Ltd., the Native community and the state.

Ramy Brooks, Dog Mushing in Alaska

Iditarod - The Last Great Race

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Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


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