Mushers head overland in sixth annual Nunavik dog team race

15 teams, 180 dogs, race for Ivakkak 2006 title


They’re off!

On Monday, 180 dogs in 15 teams headed from Puvirnituq on a 525-kilometer journey overland to Kangirsuk — the course of this year’s Ivakkak dog team race in Nunavik.

Nunavik mushers, from 17 to 64 years old, will drive dog teams over some of the roughest terrain in the region. They’re expected to reach Kangirsuk between April 4 and April 7.

“It’s very different because we will be going overland, from one coast to the other, so we’ll be 10 days without seeing a community or anything,” said Ivakkak coordinator Isabelle Dubois.

This year, each team has two dog team drivers, and is completely self-sufficient, transporting themselves and all the supplies they need, with no snowmobile support. The teams will make a mandatory stopover midway at Payne Lake, where they will resupply.

The teams are also running at their own pace this year, without daily check-ins or pre-set overnight spots.

A small safety patrol is following the teams’ route, accompanied by race official Jackusie Ittukallak of Puvirnituq.

“Everybody has satellite phones, and we’re asking them to call in every day to let us know that they’re okay. From the cell phone, we can tell their coordinates, so if ever they get lost, we will be able to find them,” Dubois said.

Among the challenges that Ivakkak racers face this year are the uncertain, spring-like conditions.

“They’re changing all the time. There is a lot of snow and it’s soft snow. Now it’s cooling down and a little crust is forming on it — real spring conditions,” Dubois said.

The 15 participating teams are lead by:

* John Jack Séguin and Alain Séguin of Kangiqsualujjuaq;
* Willie Cain Jr. and Tommy Annahatak of Tasiujaq;
* Jusipi Lucassie of Aupaluk and Etua Lucassie of Kangirsuk;
* Matthew Nassak and Etua Nassak of Kangirsuk;
* Harry Okpik and Willy Kulula Sr. of Quaqtaq;
* Johnny Arnatuk and Tamu Tukkiapik of Quaqtaq;
* Peter Kiatainaq and Peter Puulik Qisiiq Jr. of Kangiqsujuaq;
* Adamie Qumak of Akulivik and Jimmy Angiyou of Puvirnituq;
* Tamusi Sivuaraapik and Johnny Sivuaraapik of Puvirnituq;
* Poasi Kenuajuak and Andrew Novalinga of Puvirnituq;
* Novalinga Novalinga and Adamie Angiyou of Puvirnituq;
* Jani-Marik Beaulne and Juani Beaulne of Puvirnituq;
* Peter Ittukallak and Harvey Angutiguluk of Puvirnituq;
* Adamie Inukpuk and Aipilie Echalook Jr. of Inukjuak;
* Simeonie Elijassiapik and Arthur Elijassiapik of Inukjuak.

After crossing the finish line in Kangirsuk, the 2006 champion and his partner will be presented with the Ivakkak Cup.

The winning team will also receive: from the Fédération des cooperatives du Nouveau-Québec, household items worth $9,250; from Makivik Corporation, $3,500 for each of the winning pair; and from First Air and Air Inuit, two return tickets to Montreal plus two nights accommodation.

Depending on their standings, other teams will receive cash awards and a choice of merchandise.

Avataq Cultural Institute will present $500 to each member of one team to honour the memory of the late Nutaraaluk Iyaituk, an Ivakkak participant in past year’s races. A Makivik news release said Iyaituk “took great joy in going out with the dog teams each year for this challenge.”

Ivakkak was first launched in 2001 by Makivik to encourage Nunavimmiut to revive this traditional means of travel, which almost disappeared following the slaughter of Inuit dogs in the 1950s and 1960s and the introduction of snowmobiles into the region.

The progress of the race will be updated daily on the Internet at, and on regional radio stations.

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