Born in Alaska and raised in Minnesota, Ed Iten’s childhood dream was to return to Alaska. After graduating from the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, Ed lived on the upper Kobuk River with Inupiaq Joseph Harvey. It was a sparse but rewarding time learning the ways of survival in the arctic.

Ed’s years evolved into commercial fishing and working carpentry in the summers in Kotzebue and spending his winters on the Maniilaq River. It was during a trip to Kotzebue for work that a friend talked Ed into running his team in the Kobuk 220 mile sled dog race. In 1986 Ed’s rookie team finished minutes behind the "Shishmaref Cannonball" and Iditarod champion Herbie Nayukpuk. From then on the two racers shared a special relationship and “I was hooked,” Ed says.

That same year Ed met his wife Ruth who shares his love for the country and the dogs. Once married, the pair headed out to more open country where they lived on the Maniilaq River for a year, 35 miles from the village of Kobuk. A year later the family moved to a small sod cabin two miles outside of Ambler with their then two year old daughter, Kate. After four years living near the village Ed and Ruth’s longing for a more remote home led them to their last up-river cabin located on the tundra twenty five miles above Kobuk. In describing their time living along the Kobuk and Maniilaq rivers Ruth says:

"Our homes up river were heated with wood we hauled from the mountians. Our water was carried in buckets from the river. We hunted caribou, dried the meat, collected berries, and lived off the land. We caught fish to feed our dogs and we were able to live comfortably thanks to Ed's skill as an outdoorsman. We did all of this as a family and all of this by dog team."

While living up river Ed's kennel developed and grew considerably as the family depended on the dogs for both work and transportation. The family spent ten years living “up river” raising their two children (Kate and Quinn) and sending Ed off to the races. Since his first race in 1986, Ed has gone on to win the Kobuk 440 seven times and the Kuskokwim 300 in 2004.

In 1996 Ed and his family built their home twenty-five miles from Kotzebue on Saqaugiin Creek, three miles off Kobuk Lake. No roads lead to their kennel, they travel winter trails by dog team and cross the lake in the summer by boat. From their home they work on breeding and training a team that has what it takes to become Iditarod Champions.

The Itens now operate one of the most seasoned and successful bush kennels in Alaska. The entire family works together to keep the kennel healthy and ready for race season. To support this lifestyle Ed spends his summers working as a carpenter in Kotzebue and the villages in the region. His winters are spent breaking trails and training the dogs in the Squirrel River Valley near the family homestead.

Quinn, Ruth, Katie and Ed at the 2005 Junior Iditarod
Joseph Harvey
Ed and Joseph (center) with the Jones and Harvey families (Kobuk River Valley, 1989).
Anchorage Daily News Feature on Ed  
Nome Nugget Newspaper Feature on Ed      

© 2005 The Iten Kennel, Kotzebue, AK. All rights reserved.
Banner photo by Jeff Schultz