With a record-breaking time, the first ever Inupiat Tribal member took the crown at the 2011 Iditarod Sled Dog Race, Reuters reported Tuesday.
John Baker became the first Native winner since 1976. He broke the previous record by three hours.
He was greeted by drummers and dancers from his Inupiat tribe, and a large crowd of relatives and supporters from his home town of Kotzebue, which is about 180 miles north of Nome.
“Running a team like this, there’s nothing better,” Baker said at the finish. “This is the way life is supposed to be.”
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Baker, 48, is a commercial pilot who flies small planes between rural villages in northwestern Alaska, an area that lacks road links. His home of Kotzebue, a mostly Inupiat city of about 3,200, lies above the Arctic Circle.
Baker is one of the few Iditarod champions who lives in a truly rural part of the state. Most top mushers live along the roads north of Anchorage or in the Fairbanks area, with easy access to supplies, business partners and corporate sponsors.
He has been a consistent top-10 finisher over the past several years and has placed as high as third in the past.