Last fall, when I got the phone call that I was being considered to write a feature column about Inupiaq Iditarod champion, John Baker, I was honored and it brought me back to the day that he won and the pride that “one of our own had won.” At work, we hung up a sign in the window that read, “Arigaaa! Velvet, Snickers and John Baker!”
A few days later from that initial phone call, his sister and I flew to Kotzebue together for the weekend. I stayed at John’s mothers house, watched him run his dogs on the tundra and interviewed him, his family and Team Baker. Just like going home to Mountain Village, life in rural Alaska is at a different pace and friendly people said, “Welcome to Kotzebue.”
Since then, I’ve heard stories, observed and met many people who are inspired by John and his perseverance to achieve his dream of winning the Iditarod. One such person is Athabascan artist, Rose Albert. Yesterday, she dropped off artwork at the Alaska Native Arts Foundation in downtown Anchorage where I work. Rose was the first Alaska Native woman to run the Iditarod in 1982. Still inspired by the race today, she carves yellow cedar boxes and creates paintings of the Iditarod.
In her first art piece she brought to the gallery, Rose hand carved and painted a yellow cedar box of John Baker. On the top lid is of a scene of John mushing through Rainy Pass. The front of the box has three pictures side-by-side; one is of John holding his leaders – Velvet and Snickers – after the finish of the race; the middle picture has John waving to the spectators and fans; and the third is John sitting at the finish line with his two leaders on each side of him with flower bouquets around their necks. Just above the pictures is John’s motto, ‘Dream, Try, Win.’ On the left side of the box, John is tending to one of his dogs and on the right side of the box, John is arm-in-arm with his children. This cedar box sold today!
In her second piece, she painted John mushing through Rainy Pass. The spectacular, majestic mountains in the background shows the beauty of Alaska. There is a marker that is guiding the mushers through the pass.
|Artist Rose Albert with yellow cedar box and painting|
Rose was born in Kokrines and raised in Anchorage and Ruby, which marks the halfway point on the northern route for the Iditarod.
Ariigaa John, good luck!!
Freelance writer of Yup'ik ancestry, Trina was born in Bethel, grew up in Mountain Village and Anchorage, Alaska and Pennsylvania. Check out her blog "Eskimo to the World" blog at: http://eskimototheworld.tumblr.com/