FAIRBANKS (AP) — Hundreds of people gathered in Fairbanks to remember George Attla Jr., the legendary Athabascan sprint racing champion who died over the weekend at age 81.
A service for Attla was held Tuesday at the Chief David Salmon Tribal Hall, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. Attla died Sunday at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage. He was recently diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma.
Attla was known as the “Huslia Hustler” and was widely considered to be the best sprint sled dog racer ever to compete. In his career, he won eight North American Open Championship titles and 10 Fur Rendezvous World Championship titles.
Attla was born in Koyukuk in 1933 and grew up in Huslia, where a final funeral, burial and potlatch will be held starting at 11 a.m. Thursday.
At the Tuesday service, Attla’s nephew Chris Simon gave the eulogy.
“If you are from Huslia and you meet someone for the first time, and let them know where you’re from, the first question is, ‘Do you know George Attla?’” Simon said. “The second question is, ‘Are you related to him?’”
Attla’s story was turned into a movie, “Spirit of the Wind,” which won the 1979 best picture award at the Sundance Film Festival. In 1974, Attla wrote a book called, “Everything I Know About Training and Racing Sled Dogs.”
He drove his last dog team a year ago, while helping a young Huslia musher named Trevor Henry prepare for the 2014 Arctic Winter Games.