Guarding a tradition
Group to form dog mushing association

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services

KIVALLIQ (Aug 11/99) - If dog mushing is to continue as an illustration of past tradition and be recognized as a sport, it's going to need a strong voice behind it, says Kivalliq dog musher Warren Palfrey.

The voice Palfrey refers to is that of a regional dog mushing association which, he hopes, may one day be a Nunavut-wide reality.

Kivalliq mushers have completed the Sport Nunavut paperwork necessary to become recognized and Palfrey says the group is waiting to hear back on its application before being able to take the next step.

"The idea for the association has been on the burner since Sport Nunavut was formed," says Palfrey.

"We decided somebody better get something like this going or there will be no more funding for dog mushing.

"When you look at the Arctic Winter Games scenario, if there's no association, or no perceived interest, there will be no dog mushing at the Games. As far as I know, dog mushing was one of the original Arctic Winter Games sports and it would a shame to lose that."

Palfrey says mushers in the three Nunavut regions have been contacted about the association and there is strong interest. He says there are more dog mushers in Kivalliq than the rest of Nunavut combined, placing even more importance on the formation of a regional association.

"The biggest benefit to forming an association would be the advocacy voice involved. The bottom line is, the association would go a long way in ensuring we don't lose the sport.

"Our youth represent the long-term future of dog mushing, as a sport, recreational activity and depiction of a past lifestyle. One of the best ways to get kids involved with anything is through the Arctic Winter Games. There's a prestigious aura involved with the Games which goes a long way in getting kids involved with various activities."

An aggressive estimate has about 15 people running dogs in Kivalliq under the age of 30, while there are more than 40 older mushers involved.

"Dog mushing is not just a sport. It's a depiction of Northern history and something Northerners, especially in Nunavut, should be very interested in preserving," says Palfrey.

David Simailak of Baker Lake has been involved with dog mushing for 20 years. Still the vice-president east of the NWT Dog Mushing Association, he says there are many positives to having a vibrant dog mushing scene in Nunavut, especially when it comes to youth and the family unit.

"Younger people are always very interested and love to hear about dogs," says Simailak.

"They love the opportunity to get on a sled and run their own race, even if it's with just one dog.

When the youth get involved, it grows quickly to be a family affair and has tremendous value in growing the family unit.

"There's nothing more satisfying than when a kid completes a race. That kid has really accomplished something. You can see the sense of achievement and the feeling of pride all over their face and on the faces of their parents, as well. When you work hard to develop dog mushing, there's nothing more satisfying than witnessing that."