History of the Nunavut Quest

History
 

In 1999, the largest Aboriginal land claim in Canadian history was finally settled and Nunavut became an official territory of Canada.

 


Photo Credit: Simon Bujold

 

In January 1999, five people got together during the darkness of winter in the small Inuit community of Arctic Bay on the northern tip of Baffin Island. Their goal was to plan festivities to celebrate the creation of Nunavut. Moses Ujukuluk, Cecil Marshall, Joeli Qamanirq, Piuyuq Enoogoo, and Niore Iqalukjuak decided to hold a sled dog race with only Inuit Sled Dogs eligible to enter.

 

There were four race rules that year and these were fairly simple; the race was open to anyone and there was no registration fee. Qamutiks (sleds) were to be 12 to14 feet in length and teams of no less than ten and no more than twelve dogs were required to run in a traditional Inuit fan hitch.

 


Photo Credit: David Poisey

 

Other communities in north Baffin were contacted and all agreed to begin fundraising efforts through dances and raffles. That first year, the prizes were $10,000 for first place, $5000 for second and $2500 for third.

 

On April 13, 1999, 180 sled dogs and fifteen mushers headed from Arctic Bay to Igloolik, a distance of 445km. This first race was called the North Baffin Quest. The competing mushers were from Clyde River, Igloolik, Arctic Bay, Pond Inlet and Hall Beach.

 


Photo Credit: David Poisey

 

Since its initial conception this annual race, now known as the Pangaggujjiniq Nunavut Quest has continued to draw dog teams from around Nunavut. Race organizers have noticed a renewed interest in this traditional mode of travel and an increase in the number of dog teams in the communities.