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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


March 22, 2003 - Issue 83


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Ivakkak 2003

by Ivakkak 2003
credits: Photos of Ivakkak 2002

Third edition of the annual Ivakkak Dogsled RaceKangiqsujuaq - Monday March 10, 2003 - fourteen teams of Inuit dog mushers are scheduled to depart on the 10th of March on this third edition of the annual Ivakkak dogsled race. The racers come from seven Nunavik communities.

Ivakkak, meaning "running at a comfortable speed", was begun to help revive the tradition of dog sledding in the Inuit style, as well as to promote the return of the pure bred Inuit Husky dogs to Nunavik. Great enthusiasm was generated last year as eleven Inuit men participated in the Ivakkak race when the youngest and the eldest of the race competed for first place. Once again this year the ages of the racers range from 18 to 61 years old. Organized by Makivik Corporation, Ivakkak provides an opportunity for Inuit young and old to be proud of this tradition; and the communities will be keenly watching and listening as the race progresses.

2002 Ivakkak Dogsled Race WinnerThe Ivakkak trail this year follows the Hudson Straight coast, starting from Kangiqsujuaq and ending in Akulivik during the following week, for a distance of roughly 600 kilometers. The race will take place mostly over land through mountain valleys and plateaus. Racers will stop en route at the Raglan Mine site, Salluit and Ivujivik, to arrive in Akulivik on March 19, weather permitting. It is expected to take about ten days to complete the race, provided that there are no storms to slow down the pace. Competitors and their support crew will sleep in igloos and tents as they overnight at their stops. Competitors must use the traditional fan style of dog traces, and are allowed to use between 6 to 12 purebred Inuit Husky dogs.

Race Delayed:
Even though the sky was still clear in the morning, after checking the weather forecast and consulting with knowledgeable Inuit elders, the race officials had to call off the start. At 11:00 AM, when they met with the participants on the sea ice to announce their decision, the wind was already blowing and the temperature bitterly cold. Later on during the day, it became obvious that the officials had taken the right decision, as the wind picked up even more, easily reaching 60 km/hr.

Had they left as planned, the dog teams would have not made it very far before the storm would have caught up to them. Expected to last for at least another day, the group would have been stuck out on the land for a while, not to mention the risk of getting lost in the whiteout. Instead, the participants stayed in and got more time to prepare. All went out to tend to their dogs, some even building snow walls to protect them from the wind. The dogs were curled up in a ball, their nose hidden in their fur, as snow slowly covered them, giving them some kind of insulation against the cold.

In the afternoon, some qimutsitiit (Inuit mushers) went to the school and made a presentation on the handling of the traditional whip Inuit use to discipline their dogs. Kids of all ages hence learned that the whip is not designed to hit the dogs per say, but rather to discipline them with its sharp sound snapping close to them. Tamusi Sivuaraapik, Bobby Novalinga and Juani Beaulne, all from Puvirnituq, gave a demonstration of their ability, with a friendly competition where they had to make different objects fall by snatching them with their whip. Small children, teenagers and teachers alike were in awe. Some were even given the opportunity to try it out, under the close supervision of their elder, Tamusi Sivuaraapik, who got a round of applause and many laughs when he demonstrated other use for the whip, such as skipping rope.

In the evening, the wind got even worse, reaching speeds of as much as 80 km/hr and causing drifting snow to swirl in strong gusts of wind. The weather forecast for the next day does not look much brighter. The race may well have to be postponed another day, until the weather clears up.

To read the daily updates and see how the race ends, visit Ivakkak 2003.

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