Table of Contents
F.I.D.O.: Barry Salovaara and Tina Portman
Barry of the Midnight Sun
The Fan Hitch Contributor Wins Maxwell Award
Ivakkak: Encouraging Purity in Nunavik ISDs
Games People Play:
Saving the Sled Dog or Saving the Show Dog
Coppinger Comments Prompts ISDI Rebuttal
Behaviour Notebook: Building a Team
IMHO: The Sernix, a Fable
Navigating This Site
Charlie Watt runs the 2003 Ivakkak Dubois photo
by Sue Hamilton
I have seen very little to cheer about in regard to the status of the Inuit Sled Dog in Arctic Canada since May 1, 2000 when the Nunavut Legislative Assembly unanimously passed a motion making the Canadian Inuit Dog (qimmiq) the Official Animal of Nunavut. Having chosen this dog over another enduring symbol of the Canadian North, the polar bear, seemed like a landmark turn of events, a hopeful sign that such recognition actually meant something to the future of the breed. To date, that seems not to have been the case. It is believed that the numbers of pure Inuit Dogs are still in decline, fatal epidemics of preventable diseases such as distemper still sweep through the communities. In the 2003 running of the Nunavut Quest, dogs on the winning teams were described as looking more like Alaskan huskies than "dogs of the ancestors". The dog team situation in Nunavut's capital Iqaluit is still unresolved. And not a peep further has been heard from the Nunavut Legislative Assembly in defense of a breed described by Ken MacRury's in his master's thesis: "Inuit knew that their own well being, if not their very existence, depended on their dogs…The association of the Inuit and their dogs was an enduring and significant aspect of life in the Arctic region for over a thousand years. The one was dependent upon the other for their mutual existence in an extreme environment." (The Inuit Dog: Its Provenance, Environment and History. 1991. Published by ISDI.)
There is, however, some promising news for the future of qimmiq. Ivakkak, the annual dog team race, which takes place in Arctic Quebec’s Nunavik region, was first run in the Spring of 2001. Recognizing that the pure bred Inuit husky dog (as it is described on their website) was at that time nearly extinct from the region, the organizers instituted the race as a means of returning this tradition to Nunavik. The event is officially described as "Celebrating the Inuit culture - Promoting the traditional way of dogsledding and the return of pure bred Inuit Husky dogs to Nunavik".
But it wasn't until this year's event that it became clear to me that Ivakkak's principal sponsor, Makivik (according to their website "Makivik Corporation was created in 1978 pursuant to the signing of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA). Makivik is the recognized Inuit Party to the Agreement. It is a non-profit organization owned by the Inuit of Nunavik. Its central mandate is the protection of the integrity of the JBNQA, and focuses on the political, social, and economic development of the Nunavik region."), understood that even a traditional dog sled race in and of itself, despite its rigors, was no insurance of the survival of the pure Inuit dog.
The rules listed on the Ivakkak
2004 website have brought ISDI much optimism. Offered here are three
rules (Numbers 3, 4 and 5) of particular interest, although the other rules
are very worthy of readers' attention:
3. Only purebred Inuit Husky dogs are to be used by participants (see Annex 1 for a detailed description). Siberian Husky dogs or blue-eyed dogs will not be accepted. Dogs will be checked prior to the start of the race and any dogs that do not fit these requirements may be removed from the race.It is not easy to evaluate the dogs shown in the photos on the Ivakkak website, but the animals do appear more like the ancestral Inuit Sled Dogs than not. And while absolute purity cannot be determined by these images, at least the commitment toward the return of the pure Inuit Sled Dog has been clearly stated in the race rules.
On behalf of enthusiasts worldwide, the Inuit Sled Dog International recognizes Makivik for these proactive measures in supporting a future for the pure Inuit Sled Dog. We encourage them to continue their efforts, not only through Ivakkak, but also in other facets of Nunavik life , thereby setting an example for others to do the same.
A summary of this year's race was reported in the March 19 issue of Nunatsiaq News and at the Ivakkak 2004 website.