We Mourn the Passing of George Attla, a Legacy, an Icon, a True Spirit of Dog Mushing

George Attla (left) talks with Herbie Nayokpuk after the 1973 race.  Photo by Anchorage Daily News/reprinted from the book Iditarod Silver.

George Attla (left) talks with Herbie Nayokpuk after the 1973 race. Photo by Anchorage Daily News/reprinted from the book Iditarod Silver.

George Attla passed away on Sunday, February 15, at the age of 81, surrounded by his family.   Attla passed away from B-cell lymphoma in the bone marrow.  Although we remember him as a legacy in the mushing world, his daughter, Amanda Attla, living in California, stated that she will remember him as “being a great father. He was always there, he was always pushing us to be a better person and to not ever give up because there is always hope,” she said. 

George always said that he was taught that there wasn’t  anything that could not  be overcome.  It just took determination, hard work, perseverance, and a disciplined mind. That message, he shared with many, inspiring others to keep working at their goals and to do their best.  George believed that  everyone could be a winner in life if only they always worked at improving  themselves.

 George, of Huslia, Alaska, was a legendary open-class sprint dog racer who won more Fur Rendezvous World Championships (10 wins) than any other musher to date.  (8 North American World Championships and 9 ISDRA unlimited class metals.) 

Growing up, he believed that he came from a humble start.  He came by dog mushing naturally because of where he was raised and because his parents knew more about dog mushing than he believed he’d ever know in his own lifetime.  George enjoyed dog mushing.  It was his way of life and driving a dog team and racing dogs was what he really enjoyed doing.

Coming from where he did, they didn’t speak English.  George never had a formal education.  Everything he learned, he always said that he learned the hard way. Yet, he said that he could never claim to have a hard life.  He believed he had a good life and that he was able to do what he did because of his upbringing and that  they just had good dogs in his village of Husila.  When he grew up, ‘back then’ the people were always ‘making races’ because there weren’t races for them to enter.

Although he wasn’t successful at long distance racing, sprint racing was his life and love.  George raised sled dogs all his life.  He traveled the world an held dog racing seminars in many places.  He never won a sprint racing event 3 years in a row, often 2, but not 3,  which is testimony to how hard successful spring racing is. 

George is remembered as the Huslia Hustler.  “Spirit of the Wind” is the name of a movie that was made about his life.

“The dog never makes a mistake.  He is just a dog and he does what he does because he is a dog and thinks like a dog. It is you that makes the mistake because you haven’t trained him to do what you want him to do when you want him to do it.” (George Attla)

Rest in Peace, George.  You have been inspirational to so many.  We will remember your legacy. 

View a video of George Attla at this link.