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Pete Bowers
Pete Bowers was interviewed on July 20, 2011 by Robert Drozda and Marla Statscewich at the University of Alaska Museum of the North in Fairbanks, Alaska. Angela Linn, Ethnology Collection Manager, and Emily Chagluak, her student intern, were also present at the interview. In this interview, Pete talks about the history of, and archeological evidence for, people using dog power for transportation and work. He uses items from the Ethnology Collection at the University of Alaska Museum of the North to demonstrate the types of dog team equipment and technologies used through time. This recording has been edited from the original.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2011-19-10

Project: Dog Mushing in Alaska
Date of Interview: Jul 20, 2011
Narrator(s): Pete Bowers
Interviewer(s): Marla Statscewich, Robert Drozda
Transcriber: Joan O'Leary
People Present: Angela Linn, Emily Chagluak
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
Alaska State Library, Institute of Museum and Library Services
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.

After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.


Personal background and coming to Alaska

Getting interested in dog mushing and connections with archeology

Archeological record of first human use of dogs

Differences between wolf and dog bones in the archeological record

Evidence needed to prove use of dog traction

Looking at items from the University of Alaska Museum of the North collections

Equipment: harnesses, toggles and swivels, snow hook, sled runners

Equipment: lines, harness

Innovation in Native material culture

What you can learn from the archeological record

Use of whips to control dog teams

Quality of preservation in the archeological record

More discussion about dog whips

Looking at and discussing old harnesses in the collection

Looking at sled models in the collection and discussing sled technology

Equipment: sled runner, mouth drill

Fan hitch versus tandem hitch for dog teams

Use of dog teams for recreation versus as work dogs

Finishing looking at items from the University of Alaska Museum of the North collections

Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview.

After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.


ROBERT DROZDA: Today is July the 20th, 2011 and we are here at the Museum of the North in the conference room and we're going to talk with Pete Bowers today. Pete’s an archeologist and has a lot of experience in the North.

He's also the President of Northern Land Use Research.

And with me today also is Marla Statscewich behind the camera, Angie Linn with the museum and Angie’s assistant Emily Chagluak. And I guess we’re ready to begin, Pete.

Primarily, we want to talk about, you know, prehistory, history and dog traction in archeological record.

And before we jump into that maybe you can give us a little bit of your own personal background. How you came to be in Fairbanks, that sort of thing.

PETE BOWERS: Okay, well let’s see I grew up in Pennsylvania and graduated from Haverford College in 1974 and I had a research position right after that doing fieldwork in the Alaska Range.

In the Tangle Lakes area. And did that project in the first part of 1974 and then after that did archeological salvage working along the pipeline until the last part of summer of ’74.

And then I've been involved doing archeology ever since in a variety of positions and situations around the state.

In the last 20 years we've had Northern Land Use Research operating here in Fairbanks and we've worked all over the state and done over 400 projects in all different time ranges of archeological projects.

Everything from 14,000 year old sites to recent sites, gold rush era projects. And so a chance to see a few different parts of the state.

Uh. I've been really interested in dog mushing. I had dogs for about fifteen years in the late 70’s up until some time in 90’s and ran dogs around a little bit -- the trails around Fairbanks and I got involved with sled dog racing.

First for sprint racing here in Fairbanks through some of the races of the Alaska Dog Mushers Association and then got involved with -- got more interested in long distance travel.

And did trips throughout the Interior and then got involved with some longer distance racing. I did the Coldfoot Classic Race and then ran the Yukon Quest and did that in 1985. And that was a fun experience.

That's another whole story though. At one point we had about thirty dogs. And it was probably kind of a natural joining of my interests in archeology and history with dog mushing to get involved with the history of dog mushing.

In 1987, I worked on a project here at the museum. Susan Will and I were the guest curators for a project called "The Driving Spirit," which was an exhibit on dog mushing and that's what really got me going on it.

Just researching all different parts of the archeological background, dog mushing, ethnographic background of dog mushing.

I got particularly interested in kind of the origins of dog mushing, where it came from and everything.

And after that exhibit closed here, part of that exhibit -- we for several years we ran an exhibit through the Dog Mushers Association at the Musher’s Hall, Farmers Loop Road in the late 80’s.

And the remnants of that exhibit are I think they're out at the Community Museum in downtown Fairbanks, now. I haven’t seen it for years, but I think that's still where it is. So that’s kind of a general background.

ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. Sounds like when you came to Alaska to do your first fieldwork, you were hooked?

PETE BOWERS: Oh, yeah, yeah and it was interesting because I never thought during that summer that I was moving to Alaska or going to be doing archeological work.

I kind of thought well this is an interesting way to spend the summer and, you know, then what am I going to do after this. And just one thing led to another and I ended up staying in Alaska and doing that -- that same kind of work all those years and --

ROBERT DROZDA: So, are you completely out of dogs now or what?

PETE BOWERS: Yes, we do some dog sitting from time to time for friends. We have one at home right now. But, had a Golden Retriever for 14 years and she just passed away last summer.

But yeah, I haven't really been involved with sled dogs for, yeah, since the early 90’s kind of. I had my own dogs. I’ve helped out a few other people train dogs from time to time. Just gone out with them.

ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. Okay. When -- speaking from archeology now -- when in the archeological record do you first begin to see hints of, you know, dog traction. And, you know, humans using dogs for their power and work?

PETE BOWERS: Well, there's no really definitive evidence of this yet and it kind of depends who you talk to in the archeological community, you might get different opinions.

Just kind of going -- going back kind of looking at dogs in general the -- there's archeological evidence of dogs going back to about 14,000 years or so.

The actual domestication of dogs. And there's been a lot of DNA work done recently that suggests that dogs were -- domesticated dogs were derived from East Asia. And probably domesticated from gray wolves.

And so it’s probably quite likely that the first -- the first people who colonized the new world probably had domesticated dogs with them. Because dogs from 14,000 years ago or so from Europe and Israel, at ages like that, and in North America I think the oldest dog bones are probably about 10,000 years old or so from the site in Danger Cave in Utah.

In Alaska, we have dog bones in archeological sites probably going back about 5,000 years or so. We actually have some bones we found at a site at Coffman Cove in southeast Alaska recently about 3,800 years ago or something.

So the evidence of dogs is fairly continuous. People had -- had dogs as hunting partners. Probably a variety of uses for a long time through the -- through the most of the Holocene time period in Alaska.

One thing I just ran across recently is that there does not seem to be images of dogs in any of the caves -- Paleolithic cave paintings.

So I think the time period and the dating in the archeological record say 14,000 years or so is probably fairly, you know, fairly -- fairly good indication of the origins.

Let’s see, in Alaska there's dog bones that show up in so-called Arctic Small Tool Tradition sites in about 2,000, 2,500 years ago, about 3,000 years ago and --

ROBERT DROZDA: Can I interrupt you a second? PETE BOWERS: Yeah.

ROBERT DROZDA: To the trained eye is it easy to distinguish between a wolf remains or wolf bones and dog bones in a record?

PETE BOWERS: No, it’s not and you really need -- you really need kind of the cranial bones, because the most obvious changes are in the dentition and the mandible areas. A lot of the post-cranial bones might look really similar. So, it’s not -- it’s not real easy to tell those apart.

ROBERT DROZDA: Yeah, were the working dogs, the non-wolf dogs, were they smaller or -- generally or were they, you know --

PETE BOWERS: I haven’t really exhausted review of all -- of just a few that I've run across in the Ipiutaq bones from Deering seem to be about the size and size range of a malamute or larger dog. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh.

PETE BOWERS: So, I don’t know. I think some of the dogs, especially in the northwest coast and in more recent times kind of run the whole gamut of sizes so it could be -- that could have been used for a variety of purposes.

Let’s see, dogs -- okay, let me think about here.

The dogs -- the dog bones in archeological sites, you know, don’t -- don’t -- it doesn’t automatically equate to -- with dog mushing and I think that was part of your original question here was -- There's a lot of things that you need to kind of prove or demonstrate dog traction.

Having a dog bone is not -- not adequate in and of itself.

Evidence of a sled is not adequate in and of itself. because people could have sleds for riding purposes or just be pulling them with human power.

I think the archeologists that have really looked into this, notably Ed Hall, and some other, pretty much at least from looking at it conservatively feel that you have to have the evidence of dogs, a sled and then some means of connecting them.

So in the archeological record, what we see or what we would look for would be parts of -- parts of harness and some means of attaching harnesses to tow lines or something or tug lines of some kind.

And unfortunately those are perishable things. They are not usually preserved in most archeological sites. So we don’t -- we don’t find those in those sites. A lot of it is kind of inference from what we --

ROBERT DROZDA: Yeah. Because they're made of skin or --

PETE BOWERS: Yeah, made of skin or bone or antler and things like that. So it’s only those few sites where you have really good organic preservation where you kind of find those kind of materials. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh.

PETE BOWERS: And so the -- even though we -- there's fairly good maybe inferential evidence that dogs were being used to pull sleds back several thousand years ago,

I don’t think we probably until the last 500 years or so do we really have good archeological evidence of that.

So, there are some sites along the Kobuk River, the Ambler Island, size one, about 1700 AD or so where you have evidence of harness parts that were a pretty good indication of dog traction.

ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. What was preserved in the harnesses?

PETE BOWERS: I think they had some toggles. Maybe we could talk about that later. They used for hooking -- hooking a line onto a harness.

ROBERT DROZDA: Things made out of bone or --

PETE BOWERS: Yeah, bone or ivory. There're swivel parts. We can talk more about the technology but - so it’s--

ROBERT DROZDA: Okay, good. Well let’s take a break and maybe we can bring some of those things up. PETE BOWERS: Okay.

ROBERT DROZDA: Okay, Angie's put out some trays here of some stuff from the museum collection. And I think these are some of the oldest things that they have.

And maybe you can just inform us a little and talk a little bit about these items. And maybe also how they've changed through time if that's possible.

PETE BOWERS: Okay. ROBERT DROZDA: What they are.

PETE BOWERS: It might be useful first just to talk a little about the kind of more contemporary kind of technology. And what we’re talking about in hitching dogs to a sled you need some kind of a harness.

This is an example of a freight harness that might have been used in the 20th century or so.

But there's -- mushers nowadays and historically have tried to use -- have some kind of swivel and that helps prevent the lines from getting tangled up as the dogs move around and everything.

In my own opinion, I don’t think that's absolutely necessary to have a dog -- have dog traction.

I think you can get some way of hooking a dog up and make the connection between a harness and a sled you can still do it even if it might get more tangles.

So I don’t think the toggling technology is absolutely essential.

But this is kind of what we’re talking about. Kind of a snap and something that spins around like that and prevents the -- prevents the lines from getting tangled.

Here's another example. This is from a -- I don’t know where this is from. It’s a snow hook, but it’s the same idea. It’s a swivel so that the line doesn’t get tangled up as the dogs jump around and everything.

ROBERT DROZDA: What’s a snow hook?

PETE BOWERS: A snow hook is another part of the technology. It’s your brake -- it’s your parking brake. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh.

PETE BOWERS: You just jam that in the ice and hopefully you’ve got it in well enough so the dogs don’t run away from you.

So this is an example, again it’s not -- this is another ethnographic example. I think this is from east Greenland. ANGIE LINN: That's the Elephant Point one.

PETE BOWERS: Oh, okay, I’m sorry, all right, okay, this is from out near Kotzebue but -- by a caribou skin harness.

But this illustrates really nicely the swivel arrangement where you have a part here that's attached to the line -- attached to the harness and then this moves around so as the dog moves around it prevents the line from getting tangled up, but it does the same -- it kind of does the same thing as this.

And made out of metal. So, again this is an ethnographic example, but when you're looking at some of the earlier -- earlier pieces here. This is material that is from Louis Giddings' excavations on the Kobuk River, which he published in a 1952 book.

I believe these are from the Ambler Island site, which dates about 1730, 1750 AD or so, and they're pretty well-dated sites.

But this piece here would probably be similar to this square piece here, just part of a toggling arrangement. And as you go back further in time we probably know less and less about some materials so.

ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. It’s nice to --

PETE BOWERS: These are just interpretations.

ROBERT DROZDA: Right, but it’s really nice to have the ethnographic example.

PETE BOWERS: Oh, absolutely, yeah. ROBERT DROZDA: And then that helps you interpret. PETE BOWERS: I know the first time I saw some of these things. ROBERT DROZDA: What the heck is this?

PETE BOWERS: Couldn’t figure it out what it is, yeah. And then something like this may have been at the, you know, at the end of the toggle here to help hold that in.

On another end of the operation you have a toggle to attach into a line of some sort, I don’t know. We can talk about that but this might have been something like that. These other pieces are sled runner pieces.

We do find quite a few of those in northern and coastal sites. They're in and of themselves they’re not indicative of dog traction.

They could have been used to help protect the bottom of wooden or bone sled runners, but they're presumably replaceable. You put them in with little pegs in the bottom of your sled to help protect the sled. ROBERT DROZDA: Human powered sleds?

PETE BOWERS: Could be, yeah. Yeah, again it’s not -- it’s not conclusive evidence of dog traction. This kind of stuff is more -- more -- more indicative of you actually have dog traction.

ROBERT DROZDA: And these are all bone, correct?

PETE BOWERS: Yeah, these are all bone here, yeah.

ROBERT DROZDA: And they'd use other materials for that?

PETE BOWERS: Bone or antler or ivory in some cases. In fact, there's ivory in some of these pieces here. Let’s see, this is -- let’s move this out of the way.

This I believe is from St. Lawrence Island. I’m not sure the exact context.

It was collected by Otto Geist probably from one of the later period sites by western tool era site, might have been somewhere in the last 500 years or so I’m guessing -- late prehistoric.

But that shows really nicely this toggling arrangement. You can compare that with this one. It just gives it a way of spinning around so the dogs aren’t as likely to get tangled up.

ROBERT DROZDA: So at that far end by your right hand would be attached to the harness?

PETE BOWERS: I would -- I would presume so, yeah. There are several ways this could be -- you could hook this up.

ROBERT DROZDA: Yeah, maybe Angie can bring out another rope to show how these toggles actually hook into the -- PETE BOWERS: Oh, yeah.

ROBERT DROZDA: To the lines. Okay, Pete, maybe you can explain a little bit about how these lines and pieces go together.

PETE BOWERS: Well, keep in mind the idea is to have a line stretching, you know, from the sled. You have the gang line and this is using contemporary technological lingo here so.

You have the gang line which goes from the sled all the way up to the lead dogs in front. Then you add individual tug lines that come off of that gang line and the tug line then connects to -- to a harness.

So you kind of have those three parts of the pulling system and then little gadgets that you use to connect in between. So this is an example -- ethnographic example. I think this comes from Shishmaref. Shishmaref has a long tradition of dog -- dog mushing.

ROBERT DROZDA: Up northwest Alaska.

PETE BOWERS: Northwest Alaska, yeah. Famous early, early Iditarod mushers, Herbie Nayokpuk came from Shishmaref. Uh, so, okay, this is walrus hide. And you just have to imagine this whole thing being stretched out and then at a dog’s length apart you have

two pieces here which basically would be your tug -- your tug lines. And so in looking at this -- this harness here which I think came from the Kotzebue area

with a toggle -- it just attached like this and then that would pull tight like that.

You can see that. Just a way of hooking and unhooking your dogs so you have a harness on your dog, you pull the dog up to the -- up to the line and attach it with a toggle.

And some of these other archeological -- I don’t see a good example right here, but it might serve the same purpose here.

ROBERT DROZDA: On these lines here -- these Shishmaref lines, one thing that strikes me is that I'm not really seeing any knots. So that they're made in such a way they're just split and hide is split and --

PETE BOWERS: Looks to me, yeah, the line was cu -- the pieces were cut wide enough and then you just make a split in it and that forms your loop here.

Then you can -- loop, loop subsequent pieces through it, so you don’t have to have one continuous long piece. You can loop a number of them together.

ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. So we were talking about attaching lines without needing knots and things like that. So there's also some, you know, these other things here that do that. Now maybe we can look at some of those.

PETE BOWERS: Yeah, okay. This -- looking at this in Inupiaq and Yupik material culture in general is very innovative. They used a lot of materials at hand to solve problems, and the dog traction is no exception to that.

I think just looking at the really, really cool way they -- they -- problem solving their material culture to facilitate dog traction.

So just looking at these examples again just kind of keep in mind how the swivel arrangement worked here. This one probably shows it better than anything else.

Just again so you have the dogs are hooked up and this is moving around so the dogs don’t get tangled up. Here's another archeological or ethnographic example of this, probably from northwest Alaska.

I don’t think there's really good context on this exactly but you can just see how the -- how this was carved to allow for movement of the line in there.

There's some other -- other parts here which I think are probably from St. Lawrence Island but this dog harness, but what was catalogued as dog harness buckle.

This could be used several different -- several different ways either attaching a swivel to this or just attaching another line here.

Without having the whole -- the whole sequence here you can’t tell for sure so there's some speculation in this. But it’s just another way of attaching the lines.

ROBERT DROZDA: It’s one of the intriguing things about archeology right? You don’t always get the whole picture you see.

PETE BOWERS: Yeah, we're trying -- that's part of what archeology does. We're trying to piece together human behavior based on just a little fragment of material culture, so that's part of what we do.

ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. Well, along those lines let’s look at that little carved dog. Maybe you can pull that out and Marla can zoom in on it.

PETE BOWERS: This little carved dog. ROBERT DROZDA: It’s not just about work.

PETE BOWERS: Yeah, yeah, that's St. Lawrence Island, probably. Probably from one of the more recent levels of the St. Lawrence Island excavations, but it probably -- I would consider late prehistoric just -- just guessing, but nicely carved. A little curly tail.

ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. And then this piece here has some artwork on it. It looks like some decoration.

PETE BOWERS: Yeah, this is -- was interpreted as being at the end of a whip. And actually these whip parts have been speculated by some archeologists as some of the other material culture that you would need to show dog mushing. Do you see that okay?


PETE BOWERS: Yeah, really nice carving on there. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh.

PETE BOWERS: I personally don’t think having whip parts indicates dog mushing. It’s one more line of evidence, but you don’t have to have -- ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh.

PETE BOWERS: A whip to be able to drive dogs. We know that from contemporary dog mushing here. Can you see that okay? MARLA STATSCEWICH: Yes.

ROBERT DROZDA: What's that material, Pete? It looks really different than the rest.

PETE BOWERS: It’s probably fossilized ivory. ROBERT DROZDA: Oh, okay.

PETE BOWERS: Maybe fossilized walrus ivory. Yeah, that's really nice the way it’s carved. This is another example of something that's being interpreted as a whip -- the end of a whip -- whip ferrel.

ROBERT DROZDA: Whips used how?

PETE BOWERS: I'm not sure. Just to get the dogs’ attention one way or another. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh.

PETE BOWERS: That's somewhat speculative. This -- let’s see this is St. Lawrence Island also. It looks like carved eyes on there.

ROBERT DROZDA: Oh, yeah. PETE BOWERS: Can you see that. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh.

PETE BOWERS: And some other examples here probably also from St. Lawrence Island of dog harness toggle. It would probably be used with a fan hitch arrangement pulling it, but this shows the kind of the real basic idea of the built up sled where you have the rear stanchions and then something you can hold onto and move the sled around. Although while the Greenland -- ethnographically a lot of the Greenland sleds people were riding in the sled, and they weren’t really driving it from behind.

For example, there's no stand -- there's no runners sticking out the back where you can stand on like you can with some of the more contemporary sleds.

ROBERT DROZDA: Yeah, we see a lot of photographs of the drivers actually sitting in the sled there.

PETE BOWERS: Yeah, yeah. So it was -- depending on the how good you are at driving your dogs whether you get to your destination or not.

So another example from the University collections here are. Let’s see, this is a toboggan.

This would've been used in the Interior more of the Athabascans used these and also you see these in some of the early illustrations of the Hudson’s Bay Company.

Some of the French Canadian traders, trappers that were using things like this. Get into something that will enable you to get fairly -- fairly narrow for going through wooded areas. And the toboggan idea is it just rides up on top of the soft deep snow. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh.

PETE BOWERS: These other types of sleds wouuld be better suited for more hardpack kind of stuff.


PETE BOWERS: Yeah. As sled technology developed, you eventually got to this kind. I think you had several people in some of your other interviews who have talked about the details of this more. But the idea is you have --

you have something you can actually drive from the -- you're standing on or running along behind, but you can get on the runners and you can have a driving bow to help maneuver the sled around. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh.

PETE BOWERS: And this is one of the kind -- this is probably the style sled that most people think of when they think of dog sleds.

But, you know, a bigger version of this would be a freight sled and these were used extensively during the, you know, in the last 50 years for dog racing.

ROBERT DROZDA: And this is referred to as a basket sled, right because that is --

PETE BOWERS: That's a basket sled, right. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh.

PETE BOWERS: Right. And this was made by, who did you say?

ANGIE LINN: Steve --

PETE BOWERS: Or, it’s from Rampart? ANGIE LINN: That one's from Circle. Steve Nathaniel.

PETE BOWERS: From Circle, okay. All right. So Interior Alaskan.

ROBERT DROZDA: The thing that strikes me about this one is that we don’t see any kind of metal hardware on it at all. Everything's tied and lashed and --

PETE BOWERS: Right. Yep. It’s all lashed and it gives the sled a lot of flexibility, which is really important for maneuvering around through trees and also if you're racing maneuvering the sled is really important to have that kind of flexibility.

ROBERT DROZDA: Maybe if you run into something it will flex instead of break?

PETE BOWERS: Yeah, yeah, right. Something bolted is more likely to snap and break. So just kind of you can see the kind of different examples of how people have dealt with sled technology over the years.

Nice examples from the museum collection here. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. Very nice, yeah. Lots of innovation and -- maybe you could pull that sled runner over here a minute. I had a question about that.

Okay, so obviously it’s drilled and on this one I think you showed the pegging. How the runners were pegged into the bottom.

PETE BOWERS: Uh-huh. Right.

ROBERT DROZDA: Yeah, so, you know, some of these sleds are from before we had electric drills. PETE BOWERS: Uh-huh.

ROBERT DROZDA: I wonder if you could talk a little bit about that. How did they make those holes in there?

PETE BOWERS: Well, in the earlier times, archeologically you would have just made a stone tool to just to work -- work a hole into it by hand.

In later times, I think you have an example over here's a bow drill. It might have been -- it might have been used. And this is from where?

ANGIE LINN: Just northwestern Alaska.

PETE BOWERS: Northwestern Alaska. Yeah, something like this might have been used. Put that in your mouth and -- I never really used one of these, but just like that and then you move the drill -- move this back and forth and -- ROBERT DROZDA: And it spins.

PETE BOWERS: And spins and makes your hole. So that's kind of the idea.

It doesn’t necessarily have to go in your mouth, but that was just a way of holding the -- holding the top -- the top so it doesn’t rock back and forth too much.

But these are well represented in the ethnographic record from Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta with Nelson’s -- Nelson’s work there. Murdoch’s reports from the Barrow area and all over the late 19th century, early 20th century time period.

But I don’t know how far back that goes archeologically, but I mean the idea is the same. You just -- you have either a stone or when metals came in, that metal would've been used.

We actually, you know, the extensive use of metal came in of course when non-Natives showed up in Alaska, but there are actually are traces of metal

which show up as early as Ipiutak time period 1500 years ago or so. Which would presumably have been traded up from China or Manchuria somewhere. We found some of that at Deering.

It's been found out at Point Hope. Just little tiny fragments of metal in the end of an ivory handle of some kind. And that would've been a preferred -- preferred material for making these kinds of holes. Preferred over stone. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. Yeah. So the particular kind of stone tool that might be used for that, do the archeologists have a name for that?

PETE BOWERS: A burin is a tool that's used for engraving or would've been used for engraving and there're special techniques that were used in the stone technology to make a stone tool.

A really stout edge that then could be used for drilling or making all the insized engravings. You know, lines on bone or antler. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh.

PETE BOWERS: Now I mentioned a minute ago about the fan hitch that was -- and that's commonly thought of as the technique used in Greenland, still used in Greenland and Northern Canada.

The evidence for that shows up in the ethnographic work that was done in Northern Canada and throughout Greenland.

There is some indication that fan hitches were used in Alaska -- in the -- northern Alaska. Spencer talks about that somewhat.

But the idea is basically just you have one point of contact right here and then a series of lines that come out from there. And probably not a lot of control over the dogs, because the dogs are probably jumping back and forth and getting all tangled up and everything.

I know I’ve seen some films of that from Greenland and it looks kind of like a mess to me compared to tandem hitches that we're using in Alaska. And the tandem hitch probably didn’t really come in until -- until late 19th century or something like that.

I don’t know exactly when but it’s probably that time period. But tandem hitch would be a lot more user friendly in the forested area if you're trying to go in and around trees and everything.

You don’t want a big fan hitch where your dogs are getting tangled up. And the fan hitch would be better suited for wide open tundra and open areas where you're not going to get tangled up.

ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. Do you think with the fan hitch technology there's one particular dog that's a leader? Can you see that?

PETE BOWERS: I don’t know. I can’t recall from reading about it. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh.

PETE BOWERS: Yeah, you might. I don't know.

ROBERT DROZDA: So, you mentioned, you know, it’s still being used in Greenland and parts of Northern Canada.

You know here in Alaska it seems like dog mushing is more or less recreational. There aren’t too many people out there who are using dogs for running traplines and stuff like that.

It's been replaced by snowmachines and snowmobiles. Is that not true in some of these other places or -- ?

PETE BOWERS: I'm not that familiar with some of the other areas. I just know they're still being used over there. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh.

PETE BOWERS: But as far as -- ROBERT DROZDA: Work --

PETE BOWERS: -- working dogs. I would imagine snowmachines have largely replaced a lot of them.


PETE BOWERS: So, a few miscellaneous pieces here from the museum collection I might just kind of look at. And as much as anything else to kind of illustrates the innovative approach people have taken over the years to -- how to drive dogs just using materials at hand.

This is an example of just a wooden sled runner that was -- a sled part that was collected from the Brooks Range area. Quite likely Nunimiut Eskimo. And it’s in no particular order here.

Here's just showing kind of an innovative approach people have taken. This is part of a rifle barrel.

This is a snow hook somebody just bent this and put a toggle on the end of it to -- as a way of anchoring your dogs, a snow anchor.

But you can see the middle of the rifle barrel there.

Here's a couple more examples of that too. This one, the same thing there. Do you know where these are from? I don’t really.

ROBERT DROZDA: So these snow anchors, Pete, they'd actually be tied in to the line and --

PETE BOWERS: Well, you would have separate -- a separate line I mean at least from my -- my familiarity with dog mushing is that I'd have the line -- a separate line attached to the back of the main tug line -- ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh.

PETE BOWERS: That your snow anchor would be attached to. So when you jam that in the ground and everything comes to a screeching halt, the force doesn’t pull through

the sled. In other words, you don't have it attached to the back of the sled because it could tend to pull the sled apart so you --

ROBERT DROZDA: Right, okay. PETE BOWERS: So you have it so it pulls off the back of the main tug line. Or the main gang line. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh.

ANGIE LINN: Noatak. PETE BOWERS: Noatak, okay.

ANGIE LINN: The maker was raised in Kivalina. PETE BOWERS: Okay.

ANGIE LINN: This one, 151 --.


ROBERT DROZDA: Does it say who the maker was? ANGIE LINN: Yes. Let’s see. The Noatak one. Woodrow Wilson, Sr.

PETE BOWERS: Oh, okay. Huh. Interesting, these are all rifle barrels. ANGIE LINN: That is Kivalina.

PETE BOWERS: Here's another use of rifle barrels as -- for part of the braking mechanism. Winchester Arms. Small bore. ANGIE LINN: Ambler.

PETE BOWERS: Small bore. From Ambler, okay. But anyway, good reuse of materials and yeah, that's -- I don’t know what to say about that.


MARLA STATSCEWICH: Well, thanks a lot, Pete. ROBERT DROZDA: Yeah, thanks a lot, Pete and really appreciate you coming out.

PETE BOWERS: Yeah, yeah, glad to have spent some time looking. This is fun looking at these collections in the museum.

ROBERT DROZDA: Yeah, it really is. PETE BOWERS: Probably don’t see the light of day too often, so it’s kind of fun to get them out and look at all these things.