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.
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.
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:
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."
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.
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.
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.