Associated Press
Mike Williams Jr., currently in 11th place, hands his dog records to veterinarian Bruce Nwadike at the Nikolai checkpoint during the Iditarod.

Seavey Wins Second Iditarod Title, Williams Jr. Leading AK Native Contingent

Richard Walker

“More than one surprise. First it’s Jeff, then Aliy, and now Dallas…Three leaders in three hours. It's very unusual.”

The four Alaska Native mushers in the race were among the top finishers. Midmorning en route to White Mountain, the second-to-the-last checkpoint where mushers and teams take a required eight-hour rest, Michael Williams Jr., Yup’ik, was in 11th place; Baker, Inupiat, was in 14th; Peter Kaiser, Yup’ik, was in 16th;  Richie Diehl, Athabascan, was in 17th.Dallas Seavey, who won his second Iditarod title, kisses one of his dogs. (Associated Press)

Lack of snow made portions of the 1,000-mile trail particularly treacherous. Several mushers scratched after a bruising traverse of bumpy, rutty, snowless Dalzell Gorge, between Rainy Pass and Rohn. Two mushers, one a rookie and the other a veteran, scratched after their sleds were damaged beyond repair. Three mushers scratched because of injuries.

“From my experience, anybody who finishes a race like that is a winner in my book,” Mike Williams Sr., Yup’ik, a veteran of 15 Iditarods told Indian Country Today. He said just attempting the Iditarod is something to be proud of. “[Scratching] is not something to be ashamed of. The Iditarod is a real challenge.”

Williams said of Dalzell Gorge, “Dalzell has a lot of switchbacks, and that made it interesting when we used to drive 20 dogs in the Iditarod. It’s challenging, always rough, from the top of Rainy Pass. Two or three hours of that going down, that’s where most scratches happen.”

An investment in Alaska Native culture

Only four Alaska Native mushers competed in this Iditarod, down from nine in 2013. The reason, according to Williams Sr.: Lack of sponsorships.

Williams, a member of the Akiak Native Community Tribal Council and an alternate area vice president of the National Congress of American Indians, invites sponsorships from wealthier tribal governments and from corporations that are making money using Alaska resources. Supporting an Alaska Native musher is an investment in Alaska Native culture, he said.


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