Inupiaq musher Ryan Redington wins Iditarod - ICT News ''The Last Great Race on Earth''


Category:  News & Politics

Via:  kavika  •  2 weeks ago  •  25 comments

By:   Richard Arlin Walker (ICT News)

Inupiaq musher Ryan Redington wins Iditarod - ICT News ''The Last Great Race on Earth''
Indigenous mushers sweep the top three spots for first time in 50 years

Indigenous mushers sweep the top three spots for the first time in 50 years

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

Indigenous mushers sweep the top three spots for the first time in 50 years

  • Author: Richard Arlin Walker
  • Publish date: Mar 14, 2023

Inupiaq musher Ryan Redington poses with his lead dogs Sven, left, and Ghost, after he won the 2023 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 14, 2023 in Nome, Alaska. Redington, 40, is the grandson of Joe Redington Sr., who helped co-found the arduous race across Alaska that was first held in 1973. Redington kicked off what would be an Indigenous sweep of the race, with Peter Kaiser, Yup'ik, and Richie Diehl, Dena'ina Athabascan, coming in second and third, respectively. (Loren Holmes/Anchorage Daily News via AP)

Indigenous mushers sweep the top three spots for the first time in 50 years

Richard Arlin Walker
Special to ICT

Inupiaq musher Ryan Redington — grandson of the co-founder of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race — won the 998-mile event on Tuesday, March 14, becoming the sixth Alaska Native musher and second Inupiaq to win the storied race.

Redington and his team fended off 25 mph headwinds and a last push by Peter Kaiser to overtake him in the final leg of the race to cross the finish line in Nome, Alaska, just before 12:13 p.m. Alaska time.

Redington finished the race in 8 days, 21 hours, 13 minutes and 58 seconds after it started in Willow.

At the finish line, Redington talked about what it meant to him to bring the trophy home.

"It took a lot of work and a lot of patience," he said, crediting his family's support. "We had a lot of help and a lot of support. It's something we all worked for every day."

The race is significant on cultural, personal and historic levels. For the first time since 1974, the first-, second- and third-place finishers are Alaska Natives.

Kaiser, Yup'ik, crossed the finish line just more than 80 minutes after Redington, finishing the race in 8 days, 22 hours, 36 minutes and 40 seconds. Richie Diehl, Dena'ina Athabascan, finished about an hour later in third place, completing the race in 8 days, 23 hours, 40 minutes and 20 seconds. Past top 10 finisher Mike Williams Jr., Yup'ik, was still in the race in 21st place as of Tuesday afternoon, Alaska time.

Redington's grandfather, Joe Redington Sr., co-founded the Iditarod in 1973 to celebrate the heritage of the Alaska sled dog and keep interest in mushing alive. Seven Redingtons are Iditarod veterans. Of those, four are multiple top 10 finishers and three are in the Mushers Hall of Fame.

Ryan Redington became the first in his family, however, to win the championship. He's also the 25th individual to win the Iditarod, with several mushers having won the race more than once in its 51 starts.

Ryan Redington, Inupiaq, takes a rest stop in Kaltag, Alaska, on March 11, 2023, during the 2023 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. He went on to win the race March 14, 2023. (Screenshot courtesy of Iditarod Insider)

The one-two-three finish for Alaska Natives puts an Indigenous cultural stamp on the Iditarod, considered to be the premier sled dog race in the Americas. And that's important, because interest in mushing has waned since the snowmachine was introduced to rural Alaska in the mid-20th century.

"We are in an era where there isn't the interest in dog mushing compared to the early years of the Iditarod, where I would say 75 percent of Native kennels still existed," Charlie Schaeffer, an Alaska Native Iditarod veteran from Kotzebue told ICT.

"You would be surprised at the number of kennels in Northwest Alaska today," he said. "That number will fit on a part of one hand, as far as fingers go."

Read more:
—Iditarod Notebook: A day-by-day accounting of the race
—Indigenous mushers take on 2023 Iditarod
—Rising costs trim field for 2023 Iditarod
—Alaska Native musher makes history in 2022 Iditarod
—Iditarod 2022 has a new champion

Schaeffer said he hopes the Indigenous trifecta will bolster interest in mushing. So do others.

In his storied career, four-time Iditarod winner Jeff King mushed with such Alaska Native legends as Herbie "The Shishmaref Cannonball" Nayokpuk and Emmitt "The Yukon Fox" Peters. King, who hails from North Fork, California, but has lived in Alaska since 1975, said Alaska Natives have been underrepresented in the Iditarod.

"Alaska's Indigenous mushers have been missed," King told ICT as Redington and team drew closer to Nome. "A Redington winning and Pete and Richie's performances bring the race home to a regional event, where it belongs."

2019 Iditarod champion Peter Kaiser, Yup'ik, shown here on March 5, 2023, finished in second place in the 2023 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race after running a close race with Inupiaq musher Ryan Redington. Redington was first across the finish line on March 14, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Iditarod Insider)

Mike Williams Sr., an Iditarod veteran and chief of the Akiak Native Community, sees mushing as part of Indigenous Alaska culture.

"We've been mushing for 10,000 years for transportation and subsistence hunting, and living with dogs and depending on them," Williams said. "Our family has always had dogs and we're not going to let them go."

But Indigenous mushers who live in rural Alaska, off the road network, find it difficult to take time off from work to seek out sponsorship money to help cover the costs of training, managing a kennel, and competing.

"I think overall we need sponsorships to help support the Indigenous mushers who have the desire to run a race like the Iditarod," Williams said.

He said his son, Mike Jr., works at a local school and couldn't afford to take time off from work. He didn't start training until November.

"That's a little late," Mike Sr. said.

The Iditarod race committee had not, by midday Tuesday, disclosed the amount of the winner's purse this year, but the champion received $51,798 in 2022, $40,809 in 2021, $51,607 in 2020, and $51,299 in 2019.

Holding onto the lead

Redington's victory is as much about patience and endurance as it is training and strategy. He finished seven of the 12 Iditarods he entered between 2001 and 2019, with a career-best finish of 14th, before he found his groove at home and abroad.

He won the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon in northeast Minnesota in 2018 and again in 2020; the Kobuk 440 in Kotzebue in 2019 and again in 2021; and finished in the top 10 in three consecutive Iditarods, taking eighth in 2020, seventh in 2021, and ninth in 2022.

Redington was in the top five for much of the race. He fed and rested his dogs for a few hours at just about every other checkpoint, in addition to the eight-hour and 24-hour layovers required of all mushers and teams.

Indigenous musher Richie Diehl, Dena'ina Athabaskan, finished third on March 14, 2023, in the 2023 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race to complete an Indigenous sweep of the top three spots. Inupiaq musher Ryan Redington came in first and Pete Kaiser, Yup'ik, the 2019 Inditarod champion, came in second place. Indigenous musher Mike Williams Jr., also Yup'ik, also competed in the race. Diehl is shown here being greeted by his niece in McGrath, Alaska, on March 7, 2023. (Photo courtesy Iditarod Insider)

Redington took the lead in Kaltag (mile 652), changed to a lighter sled in Unalakleet (mile 737), and picked up the pace to build some distance between his team and Kaiser's.

Kaiser chipped away at Redington's lead, leaving one checkpoint while Redington napped and outpacing him to Shaktoolik and Koyuk. But Redington's dog team was energized. They stopped at the Elim checkpoint for five minutes, while Kaiser and his team stopped for five hours, presumably to make up for rests that were abbreviated to keep Redington from gaining an insurmountable lead.

Kaiser and his team slowly closed the gap. He averaged 7.82 mph to Shaktoolik (mile 777) to Redington's 7.67 mph; and 8.62 mph to Koyuk (mile 827) to Redington's 8.38 mph. But it wasn't enough to erase Redington's lead.

'Race into history'

The race was followed closely by Alaska Natives and other Indigenous people across the state and in the lower 48.

"Go Ryan Go!" one reader posted on ICT's Facebook page.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola of Alaska, who is Yup'ik, tweeted out a link to a video message about the Iditarod and the importance of dog teams in Alaska's history, particularly the 1925 delivery of diphtheria antitoxin by dog teams.

"The Iditarod is special to Alaskans for many reasons," Peltola tweeted on Monday, March 13. "It's a time to honor Leonhard Seppala for his epic journey, the dog teams and mushers, and our shared Alaska culture of helping one another despite their fierce competitive spirit."

Patricia Paul, Inupiaq, a lawyer living on the Swinomish Reservation 55 miles north of Seattle, Washington, called the 2023 Iditarod a "race into history."

"A Top 3 finish of Alaska Natives strengthens the teachings and history passed down through generations," she told ICT. "It's about our love of the outdoors, to travel and gather our traditional foods, and our social networks. It was our way of life to travel between villages."

Paul shared family mushing stories dating back five generations. "My great-grandfather, John Hensley, Sr. of Point Hope, Alaska, owned a dog sled and approximately seven sled dogs," she said. "A family story shared with me is that my great-grandmother, Priscilla (Garfield) Hensley, was born on a dog sled on the way to Kivalina, Alaska."

Redington earned other awards along the route to his championship finish:

  • Northrim Bank Achieve More Award, presented to the first musher to reach the White Mountain checkpoint: $2,500.
  • Ryan Air Gold Coast Award, presented to the first musher to reach the Unalakleet checkpoint, one ounce of gold nuggets and an ivory carving of a dog sled team. Redington told the crowd of well-wishers here that the award was particularly important to him because his mother, Barbara Ryan, is from Unalakleet.
  • Bristol Bay Native Corporation Fish First Award, presented to the first musher to arrive at the Kaltag checkpoint: 25 pounds of Bristol Bay salmon filets, $2,000, and an art piece by Alaska Native artist Apay'uq Moore.
  • Alaska Air Transit Spirit of Iditarod Award, presented to the first musher to reach the Unalakleet checkpoint: A pair of musher's mitts with beaver and beaded leather by Loretta Maillelle and a beaver hat handmade by Rosalie Egrass; both are Alaska Native artists of McGrath, Alaska.

Indigenous mushers
Four Indigenous mushers competed in the 2023 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, completing an Indigenous sweep of the top three places for just the second time in 50 years. The Indigenous competitors are:
—RYAN REDINGTON, 1st place
Hometown: Knik
Career highlights: Iditarod champion in 2023; four consecutive top 10 Iditarod finishes (2023, 2022, 2021, 2020); two-time winner of the Kobuk 440 in Kotzebue (2021, 2019); two-time winner of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon in northeast Minnesota (2020, 2018).
—PETER KAISER, 2nd place
Hometown: Bethel
Career highlights: Iditarod champion in 2019; top 10 finishes in eight Iditarods (2023, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016. 2012, 2011); seven-time winner of the Kuskokwim 300 (2023, 2022, 2020, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015); winner of the Norton Sound 450 in 2013, 2012; winner of the 2011 Kobuk 440 in Kotzebue.
—RICHIE DIEHL, 3rd place
Dena'ina Athabascan
Hometown: Aniak
Career highlights: Top 10 finishes in four Iditarods (2023, 2022, 2021, 2018); winner of the 2021 Kuskokwim 300; winner of the 2021 Bogus Creek 150.
Hometown: Akiak
Career highlights: Veteran of eight Iditarods; finished eighth in 2012 Iditarod; recipient of 2014 Iditarod Sportsmanship Award; Western Alaska Sprint Race champion, 2021; Campout Race champion, 2022.


jrDiscussion - desc
Professor Principal
1  seeder  Kavika     2 weeks ago

A great finish for Alaska Natives. 

The John Beargrease race is mentioned and is the premier dog sled race in the lower 48. It's 400 miles along the north shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota and is named after the legendary musher and mail delivery by dog sled, John Beargrease.


The John Beargrease (Anishinaabe) story

Photos from the 2023 Iditarod.





Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
1.1  Trout Giggles  replied to  Kavika @1    2 weeks ago

Those dogs look impatient.

"Enough with the photos! Let's go already!"

Professor Principal
1.1.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  Trout Giggles @1.1    2 weeks ago

I love this photo with the dogs at their full power and speed. Each of the dogs are important to the overall team from the lead to the wheel dogs that turn and guide the sled.


Transyferous Rex
Freshman Quiet
1.1.2  Transyferous Rex  replied to  Kavika @1.1.1    2 weeks ago

It is a good shot. I have huskies, and they like to pull my kids around. Fun for about 30 minutes for me. I don't have the stamina or strength of character it would take to make it 1000 miles, over the course of 8-9 days. 

Professor Quiet
1.1.3  cjcold  replied to  Transyferous Rex @1.1.2    2 weeks ago

My folks were friends with a lady who won the Iditarod several times.

Professor Principal
1.1.4  seeder  Kavika   replied to  cjcold @1.1.3    2 weeks ago

Susan Butcher, she was a classic.

Transyferous Rex
Freshman Quiet
1.1.5  Transyferous Rex  replied to  cjcold @1.1.3    one week ago

Very cool. 

Professor Quiet
1.2  Ed-NavDoc  replied to  Kavika @1    2 weeks ago

My late brother in law lived and owned a realty business and a hydroseeding business in the Eagle River/Chugiak area for many years and knew and was friends with former champions and contestants.

Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
1.2.1  Trout Giggles  replied to  Ed-NavDoc @1.2    2 weeks ago

That's a beautiful area. I've driven thru it many times

Professor Principal
3  devangelical    2 weeks ago

brrr, but congrats on the NA sweep.

Professor Principal
3.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  devangelical @3    2 weeks ago

There is a reason that it's called the last great race on earth. It's damn dangerous and requires incredible stamina for both man and dog. Also the musher and his dogs have to become one.

Professor Principal
3.1.1  devangelical  replied to  Kavika @3.1    2 weeks ago

not even in my 20's and with a modern snowsuit...

Professor Principal
3.1.2  devangelical  replied to  devangelical @3.1.1    one week ago

with a food truck every couple miles...

Professor Principal
3.1.3  seeder  Kavika   replied to  devangelical @3.1.2    one week ago


Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
5  Buzz of the Orient    2 weeks ago


Professor Principal
5.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  Buzz of the Orient @5    2 weeks ago

Thanks, Buzz.

Junior Quiet
6  shona1    2 weeks ago

Evening... outstanding effort by both dog and man...

Professor Principal
6.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  shona1 @6    2 weeks ago

It certainly was, shona. 

Professor Guide
7  evilgenius    2 weeks ago

Redington is one of the best mushers in the sport! He works hard and treats his dogs great. 

Professor Principal
7.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  evilgenius @7    2 weeks ago

And his father was one of the original founders of the Iditarod.

Professor Guide
7.1.1  evilgenius  replied to  Kavika @7.1    2 weeks ago

I didn't know that. That's really cool.

Professor Guide
8  1stwarrior    2 weeks ago


Professor Principal
8.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  1stwarrior @8    2 weeks ago


Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
9  Trout Giggles    2 weeks ago
Democratic U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola of Alaska, who is Yup'ik, tweeted out a link to a video message about the Iditarod and the importance of dog teams in Alaska's history, particularly the 1925 delivery of diphtheria antitoxin by dog teams.

I thought there was something back in history about a vaccine or treatment. I think I first learned about that back in elementary school

Professor Principal
9.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  Trout Giggles @9    2 weeks ago

They needed to get the diphtheria vaccine to Nome Alaska and a number of mushers and dogs took the challenge and the kids were saved.

A great link to the ''great race'' to deliver the much-needed medicine and to make Balto and Togo a hero like none other.,Look%20back%20at%20the%201925%20life%2Dor%2Ddeath%20mission%20that,of%20the%20lethal%20respiratory%20disease .

A few years ago a tourist plane crash landed in the remote mountains of Alaska and there was no way to get to them for rescue, that is until the local Alaska Native village formed up their dog teams and when around 20 miles to the plane and rescued everyone. 


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