The Fan Hitch Volume 14, Number 3, June 2012

Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog
In This Issue....

Editorial: A dog for all seasons

The Fan Hitch Web and Journal Updates

Fan Mail

The Doggy Men Goes Digital

In the News

Tumivut: Healthy Diet for Dogs

Qimmivut (Our Dogs)

Media Review: Nunavut Quest: Race Across Baffin Update

The Chinook Project Returns to Labrador


IMHO: Save the...  (fill in the blank)

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Index of articles by subject

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Search The Fan Hitch

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Ordering Ken MacRury's Thesis

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Defining the Inuit Dog

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Editor: Sue Hamilton
Webmaster: Mark Hamilton
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Media Review....

                              Screen shot courtesy of Piksuk Media

Nunavut Quest: Race Across Baffin
episodes 4, 5 and 6*

reviewed by Sue Hamilton

In episode 4, "A Midnight Lesson", we learn more about the only two women entered in the race. One, was a young women who won the 2007 Nunavut Quest as her father did in 2009. For the other female musher, a grandmother, this is her first Nunavut Quest. She contrasts a woman’s traditional role when traveling on the land with her current position competing with men. Her message to young men and women is that with hard work, anything is possible.

The only grandmother in the 2010 Nunavut Quest
is a role model.

 Go, Granny, Go!          
                               Screen shots courtesy Piksuk Media

A driver says because he uses his dogs to hunt polar bear, he lost a lot of time during the race when his team left the trail to follow the scent of a bear, pursued it and found the bear.

Both the support teams and the drivers admit that weather and ice have changed over the years which makes unusual conditions more difficult to predict. One night, just as most everyone is settling into their sleeping bags, an alarm is sounded that the entire camp must be moved immediately! High winds and warmer than usual temperatures have caused the ice to begin cracking beneath them. Gear is hurriedly piled high on the qamutiit and everyone makes it safely onto terra firma where tents, supplies and picket lines are re-established, leaving everyone so exhausted that the decision is made to take a day off. During the break, an Elder explains to some children who are part of the support team, that while he understands the youths’ need to attend school, the important lessons of the previous night’s evacuation – learning about hazards of life on the land and the skills to deal with them – cannot be taught in an English school.

Episode 5, "Pilaktuaq: Cut with a Knife".  A mixture of children and youth and adults enjoy the opportunity to learn from Elders who had lived and travelled along the route between the starting line in Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet) and the finish at Kangiqtugaapik (Clyde River). One driver explains how the existence of the Nunavut Quest had encouraged him to develop a dog team for him and his son.

                                Screen shot courtesy Piksuk Media

Father/daughter winners of previous Nunavut Quests explain the importance of good dog keeping. Despite the advantage that the youthful contenders appear to have, the seasoned veterans appear to be hard to catch. A freshly killed seal is butchered on the ice and enjoyed on the spot. There are beautiful scenes of camp after dark, the outside of tents glowing like beacons while inside occupants tend to the qulliq (soapstone and animal fat lamp) and settle down for the night.

Cooking a big bannock with heat provided by a traditional qulliq
                                    Screen shot courtesy Piksuk Media

In episode 6, "Final Assault", everyone knows that there is a huge crowd on hand in Clyde River, expecting them to arrive at the finish line in about 24 hours time. But they are 130 km from the next stop which is still 30 km from the point that a mass start will take all the teams on a mad dash into the community.

Teams struggle to follow the trail and avoid open water and leads
                                   Screen shot courtesy Piksuk Media

But the weather is once again deteriorating with fog, broken ice and open leads. Much of the running will be in the dark. The dogs are tired and there is much worry about bears. Despite all this, everyone agrees to make a go of it. The last team arrives at the final checkpoint 30 km out of town after running for fourteen hours!

After a brief rest then thirty kilometers later, the teams begin arriving to the tumultuous cheers of the anxiously awaiting crowd. All teams entered have completed and the sweetest victory belongs to Peter Siakuluk of Hall Beach. Peter drove his dogs eleven days just to get to the starting line in Pond Inlet for what was expected to be his last Nunavut Quest. He had entered every one of the previous eleven events since 1999, but 2010 was his first victory!

In a closing scene we see a new litter of young puppies – the future of Inuit Dogs and the Nunavut Quest.

Born only four months after their mother ran the
2010 race, these pups represent the future.
                                   Screen shot courtesy Piksuk Media

When Mark and I first ventured to the Canadian North as ignorant neophytes back in 1982, the motivation was a documentary about polar bears. Our intended focus was only seeing the bears. But by the time we left our destination, our week-long experience in the community taught us that the North is much, much more than just polar bears, and our lives ever since then have been enormously enriched thanks to that valuable lesson and scores of very kind and patient northerners. Those of you who look forward to seeing Nunavut Quest: Race Across Baffin just because of the dogs are sure to undergo a similar experience. Of course, without these dogs there would be no Nunavut Quest dog team race or documentary, in a way just as the dogs were essential to survival of the Inuit themselves. But in the case of this documentary, the dogs will have served as the channel to educate the viewer about the Arctic, its people and a history rich in culture and traditions. Whatever your particular interest in the North, Nunavut Quest: Race Across Baffin offers an inspiring and enlightening experience.

*Episodes 1, 2 and 3 were reviewed in the March 2012 issue of The Fan Hitch.

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