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Nunavummiut dog teamers eager to see more youth try the sport

First annual Qimuksiqtiit Regional Gathering held in Iqaluit Nov. 16 to 18
Left, Devon Manik, a young dog teamer from Resolute and Denise Malliki, an experienced dog teamer from Naujaat. Trevor Wright/NNSL photo

The Qikiqtani Inuit Association from Nov. 16 to 18 hosted the first ever Qimuksiqtiit Regional Gathering in Iqaluit, which brings together dog teamers from all over the Qikiqtani region to learn from each other.

For a couple of dog teamers, it represents a chance to bring attention to getting more youth into dog teaming.

Starting in the 1950s and continuing on for several decades, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) systematically killed Inuit huskies to assist in the forced relocation of Inuit to Nunavut’s current communities.

For one musher, Qimuksiqtiit represents a way to bring the practice and culture surrounding it back from those who tried to eliminate it.

“It’s going pretty good, it feels so short because dog sledders, we really want to encourage it going again,” said Denise Malliki, a 34-year-old dog musher from Naujaat and past champion of the Nunavut Quest.

One of the younger dog mushers seen at Qimuksiqtiit said he has seen the practice being picked up by other young people, something he is happy to help out in.

“I’ve been seeing a lot of kids starting to (get into dog mushing) and I’ve been giving a lot of younger people dogs,” said Devon Manik, a 20-year-old dog musher from Resolute.

Malliki says more Inuit youth should get into dog teaming, that it doesn’t take too much to get started and that youth can learn “if they’re willing to.”

“I’m so glad we can promote (dog teaming) more for Nunavut,” she added on the gathering.

In a presentation at the gathering Manik said he only started with a few huskies and now has a team of 15, even using his team to go hunting instead of a snowmobile. Being out on the land with his team is his “happy place,” he says, “I feel the most happiest out there. It’s so beautiful out there, I love being with the dogs.”

Both say do not be afraid to ask for advice from dog teamers on how to get started.

“Try it out or ask about it, ask people who know how to handle dog sledding. Get advice, don’t be afraid to ask the people who know how to sled,” said Malliki.