Koyukuk River Championship

Posted by on Jan 14, 2012 in highlight

Steven Attla’s dog team- Courtesy of Attla family

It is well known that the Alaska husky originated from coastal and interior regions of the state, but what is not so well acknowledged is that sled dog racing did too. With the development of sleds, Native people living totally off the land used dogs that pulled sleds to hunt, trap, fish, and race. Sled dogs were crucial in moving heavily loaded boats upstream in the summer, in dragging supplies on snow in the winter as people traveled from place to place, and for checking trap lines.

Prior to the 1950s, every Athabascan Indian family living a nomadic lifestyle in the Koyukuk River area had sled dogs. Villages were established only when Alaska became a state and children were required by law to have a formal education in schools. Prior to the establishment of villages, families living remotely would gather at Christmas time for up to two weeks to visit with each other and race their best dogs. There are stories about small teams racing 20-mile heats.

Getting ready for village race- Courtesy of  Attla family

From the 1950s until the early 1970s, villages held races throughout the winter. In addition to a village New Year race and small races held over the winter and into early spring, people from villages and surrounding areas would pool their best dogs and drive them to the village of Hughes for a championship race. This would be the last sled dog race of the season.

Thought to be the most significant event that changed the history of sprint racing for the Koyukuk River area dog drivers, Raymond Paul of Galena, the 1955 winner of the Fur Rendezvous World Championship Sled Dog Race, traveled to Hughes to race. He came in fourth. This race was the first time the Koyukuk River region dogs had competed against the best sled dogs of the world, and they proved to be better. In 1956, Jimmy Huntington with dogs from Huslia won the Fur Rendezvous. For decades to come, the Koyukuk River area dog drivers were tough competitors in the world championship sprint and long-distance races held throughout Alaska.

Ice Picking contest during a spring carnival- Courtesy of Attla family

In the late 1970s, village sled dog racing association president Alfred Attla of Hughes, Warner Vent of Huslia, and Beatus Moses of Allakaket had the idea to hold a single larger spring carnival that would rotate in location amongst the three villages, instead of each village having its own. The carnival, which would include snowshoe racing, ice-picking contests, and a 3-day sprint race, approximately 20 miles each day, was called the Koyukuk River Championship. Alfred Attla said having one carnival would decrease travel for the Elders of the many surrounding villages eager to watch the best dogs of the region race. The championship race became popular and locally known as the KRC.

Since the first one in 1980, the KRC has been held every April, and dog drivers from all over Interior Alaska and beyond come to compete. Because of increases in the expense of travel and lodging for a dog team and driver but no increase in the purse, the race was reduced in 1997 to two days instead of three.

2002.04- Benedict Jones at KRC- Courtesy of Attla family

2005.04- Floyd Vent at start of KRC- Courtesy of Attla family

2005.04-Pat Bergman at start of KRC- Courtesy of Attla family

 

 

 

 

 

                     Today the KRC is a much-anticipated sled dog racing event, and continues to be a special traditional spring gathering for the people of the region. The KRC is also a way for the Koyukuk River area sprint racers to gauge the championship quality of their teams. As for other sprint races in the Interior and on the western coast of the state, most are held at various times during the winter and spring, though not as many as in previous times. Villages sprint races are still being held in Galena, Ruby, Nulato, Tanana, Ft. Yukon, Minto, Tanacross, Noorvik, and Kotzebue.

1999 KRC- Wilson Sam racing KRC- Courtesy of Attla family

2002.04- Bergman racing KRC- Courtesy of Attla family

2002.04- Warner Vent racing KRC- Courtesy of Attla family

 

 

 


 

 

 Koyukuk River Sled Dog Championship Past Winners: 1980 – 2011

          
2011 • Huslia • George Attla

2010 • Allakaket  • John Erhart

2009 • Hughes • Patrick Bergman

2008 • Huslia • Buddy Streeper

2007 • Allakaket • John Erhart

2006 • Hughes • Patrick Bergman

2005 • Huslia  • Sterling DeWilde

2004 • Allakaket • John Erhart

2003 • Hughes • John Erhart

2002 • Huslia • John Erhart

2001 • Allakaket • John Erhart

2000 • Hughes • John Erhart

1999 • Huslia  • Floyd Vent

1998 • Allakaket  • George Attla, III

1997 • Hughes • Mark Zimmerman

1996 • Huslia • Tom Huntington

1995 • Allakaket • George Attla

1994 • Hughes • George Attla

1993 • Huslia • Roxy Wright

1992 • Allakaket • George Attla

1991 • Hughes • George Attla

1990 • Huslia • Marvin Kokrine

1989 • Allakaket • George Attla, III

1988 • Hughes • George Attla

1987 • Huslia • Chuck Erhart

1986 • Allakaket • George Attla

1985 • Hughes • Chuck Erhart

1984 • Huslia  • Charlie Champaine

1983 • Allakaket • Chuck Erhart

1982 • Hughes • George Attla

1981 • Huslia • Lester Erhart

1980 • Allakaket • Roxy Wright