Sami/Norwegian adventurer Lars Monsen (Femundløpet Presse of Røros, Norge via Wikimedia Commons)

Norway, Sapmi represented in the Last Great Race on Earth

Poulsbo, aka Little Norway, has several ties to Alaska.

Our population today includes the descendants of Sami reindeer herders recruited by the U.S. to teach reindeer husbandry to Alaska Natives as an alternative food source; the most famous reindeer herders, Anders Bahr, is interred in the Poulsbo Municipal Cemetery. For the first half of the 20th century, Poulsbo-based ships returned from Alaskan waters with their holds full of Alaskan cod; you can see an original codfish dory on the second floor of Poulsbo City Hall.

And so, residents of Little Norway may find this information from the 2017 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race of interest. (The Iditarod, you may recall, is the most prominent sled dog race in competitive mushing. The Iditarod follows ancestral routes traveled by the Inupiat and Yup’ik peoples, and features 1,000 miles of the most challenging and breathtakingly beautiful terrain — from Fairbanks to Nome — in sport.)

On March 14, there were 72 mushers and dog teams still in the race.

Joar Leifseth Ulsom of Mo I Rana, Norway, was in good position to finish in the top 10 for the fifth consecutive year. He was Rookie of the Year in 2013, when he finished seventh. He finished fourth in 2014 and sixth in 2015 and 2016. He’s likely to finish this year’s race in fourth or fifth.

Ralph Johannessen of Dagali, Norway was in 13th. He finished 22nd in 2014 and eighth in 2016.

Sami adventurer/author/producer Lars Monsen of Skiptvet, Norway was in 14th place. He placed 29th in 2016, his rookie year.

Geir Idar Hjelvik of Norjordet, Norway, was in 52nd place. He finished 26th in 2016, his rookie year.

Ketil Reitan, a native of Trondheim, Norway, now living in Kaktovik, Alaska, was in 33rd place. He mushed in the Iditarod in 1991-94, finishing 16th, 10th, 36th and 23rd, respectively, then returned from retirement in 2016 with a 28th place finish.

Mats Pettersson of Kiruna, Sweden, was in 20th place, an improvement over his three previous finishes: 29th in 2014, 25th in 2015, and 27th in 2016.

Of Alaska Natives in the Iditarod, Peter Kaiser, Yup’ik — three-time winner of the Kuskokwim 300 — was in ninth. Richie Diehl, Dena’ina Athabascan, was in 12th. Ryan Redington, Inupiaq, was in 15th. John Baker, the first Inupiaq to win the Iditarod, was in 21st. Robert Redington, Ryan’s brother, was in 30th.

A tie that is closer to home: If you’re 60 or so and went to Edmonds High School, you might remember Jan Steves. She now lives in Willow, Alaska, and was registered to mush in the Iditarod this year but withdrew. She finished last in 2012, her rookie year, the only Iditarod she’s finished. Her last-place finish earned her a place in the record books as a recipient of the Red Lantern Award, presented annually to the last musher to cross the finish line in Nome.

(Incidentally, Robert Sorlie of Oslo, Norway won the Iditarod in 2003 and 2005. He has won numerous long- and mid-distance championships in Europe, and is Norway’s most well-known musher.)

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