The fourth annual Inuit dog sled race, the Ivakkak, has a new winner in Peter Kiatainaq from Kangiqsujuaq.

Kiatainaq started the race with a narrow lead but had to fend off a strong challenge from second-place finisher Junior May of Kuujjuaq. Kiatainaq fell to second place on day three but regained the lead on day four and brought his dogs in to win with a time of 28 hours, 20 minutes and 52 seconds. Junior May finished at 28:40:16. Tamusi Sivuaraapik of Puvirnituq finished third, with a time of 30:55:54.

There were no problems with the race this year, with the exception of one dog having to be put down on the first day due to excessive injuries after his rope snagged on a piece of ice, causing him to be snapped back. There was a little fighting between the dogs, but that is considered normal.

Makivik, a corporation representing the Inuit of Nunavik, organized the dog team race to pass through various communities in 2001. Other organizations (Air Inuit and the Federation of Cooperatives of Northern Quebec among others) threw in their support and Ivakkak was born. Ivakkak is an Inuit word that means, ‘When the dogs are at their best pace.” Nine teams participated in the first race, while this year saw 15 teams taking part.

There are many rules for this race, including the stipulation that only purebred Inuit husky dogs are allowed to race, Siberian huskies or blue-eyed dogs are not. Only Inuit beneficiaries of Nunavik and Nunavut can participate.

The emphasis is on fair play with zero tolerance for cruelty to the dogs, which warrants immediate disqualification. If one team helps another, a sportsmanship compensation in the form of a time reward will be given. There is also zero tolerance for drug and alcohol use during the race. This year, both Tamusi Sivuaraapik and Junior May received sportsmanship awards for their dedication to fair play.

Other awards included Rookie of the Year to Juusipi Qisiiq of Kangiqsujuaq: Avataq Cultural Institute Award to Willie Cain Jr. of Tasiujaq, and Veteran of the Year to Harry Okpik of Quaqtaq. Okpik’s story is an extraordinary one as he only has one leg! This was the third year he took part in the race and his goal of finishing in the top five was met. He participates to show others that people with disabilities can do anything they want.

The Ivakkak has the ability to close down an entire town as everyone rushes out to see the racers. The race has had its desired effect, which was to bring back the pure bred husky dogs which were nearly extinct in Nunavik just a few years ago, and revive traditional dog sledding.