Allen Gordon is Executive Director of the Nunavik Tourism Association. He shares with us memories of dog sledding and his hopes of preserving the tradition through his children.
«When I was a child, I faintly remember my uncle Norman Gordon's sled dogs tied up behind their house. My two older brothers, Mark and Alec, used to follow Uncle Norman's dog team in gathering trees for firewood. According to my mother (who, by- the-way, raised us three brothers as a single parent), in the past dog teams were a big part of her family. The dogs were the only way to travel, especially to winter trapping areas, since fox pelts were the only source of income to buy basic supplies from the Hudson's Bay Company store in Fort Chimo. Also, she mentions that Alex Gordon,my late grandfather, used to deliver the mail by dog sled for the Hudson's Bay Company to Fort McKenzie. This old post was about 100 miles south of Kuujjuaq.
By the time I was six or seven years old most dog teams in my community were already gone and replaced by snowmobiles. However, I recall clearly when I was about five years old our neighbor, Joanasie Papak, still had Inuit Sled Dogs, and why I clearly remember him and his dog team occurred on Christmas Day. Joanasie's only passenger was Santa Claus. Joanasie's dogs suddenly took off running and Santa in full costume flipped and fell off the qamutik and he was in the snow with his feet high in the air!
After graduating from Kuujjuaq high school, I decided that I wanted to start a dog team. There were a few guys in town starting to run dog teams again. That is when the blue-eyed dogs started to appear in Nunavik. Since there were no more native Inuit Dogs in town, a number of Siberian Huskies and Malamutes were brought in from the south and I started my new team from those bloodlines. The most dogs I had was ten and I enjoyed recreational mushing with them for a few years, although I have not undertaken a major long distance trip with them. My job as a full time wildlife technician meant being away in the field for weeks at a time during the summer months. It became very difficult to take good care of my dogs, as I would rely on others for their feeding and care. When I returned to town my dogs would be in bad shape and it wasn't fair for them, so I reluctantly gave them up in 1987.
Heading home riding a snowmobile, I was imagining going out with dogs with my kids and enjoying the fresh air without the sound of a snowmobile engine. I remembered the days when I would listen to the dogs ivakkak (trot) and the qamutik runners swishing across the frozen land and lakes. My wife, Susie, was very enthusiastic of the idea of getting dogs to build a team.
I also want my two children to experience dog mushing and the care of dogs while they are young and imprint them with dog sledding. The kids of today are so much into television, computers and video games and spending so little time outdoors. I figure when my children are grown up they will remember our mushing trips and hopefully they will continue the tradition of running dog teams with their kids.»