BSNC shareholder Doug Katchatag of Unalakleet played a major role in the formation of one of the most iconic races in all the world, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Katchatag partnered with his close friend and colleague, the late Joe Redington Sr., to create the race. The duo’s combined skillset was a recipe for success.
In late October of 1972, Redington called Katchatag with the news that he had raised $50,000 for the race. From that point on, Katchatag worked with local communities along the race route rebuilding the trail. By then, many historical dog sled trails had fallen out of use when airplanes and snow machines replaced dog teams as the main mode of transportation in rural Alaska. Driven by motivation and knowledge of historical trails, Katchatag worked closely for many winters with five other men including his dad Fred Katchatag, his brother Fred Katchatag Jr., Wassillie Eakon, Raymond Towarak and Chuck Sagoonick to remove bushes and trees.
From the start in Anchorage, there was only a trail to Willow, so Katchatag suggested to Redington to ask the U.S. Army General to send a bivouac training squad out to learn the terrain. The Army agreed and sent a squad to McGrath. The Army squad learned so much, the general was pleased to share that they would help clear a trail all the way to Nome.
“Back then there were no snow machines to groom the trail, no markers, different sleds and dog mushers enjoyed conversations with villagers. Mushers camped at night and traveled during the day.” – Doug Katchatag
The 50th running of the Iditarod is scheduled for March 5, 2022. Although many participants of the Iditarod are encouraged by the financial reward, its roots are built from the passion of dog sled culture, racing, the history of the trail and the hard work embedded in it. To this day, during each Iditarod, you can find Katchatag helping out in any way possible. His hard work and love for the sport has not gone unnoticed.
“Doug Katchatag is a true trailblazer and played an important role in the formation of the Iditarod,” said BSNC President & CEO Gail R. Schubert. “As a Director of the Iditarod Trail Committee, I thank Doug for his hard work, persistence, and sharing his knowledge of historical trails and dog mushing.”
“My favorite thing is listening to mushers talk about the trail and showing critics it can be done. You have to stop and think of what needs to be done to move forward in a split-second.” – Doug Katchatag