The late George Attla, an Alaska Native dogsled racer from Huslia who, with one good leg became a legendary sports hero in Northern communities around the world, is the subject of “ATTLA,” a new documentary that airs today (December 16) on PBS Independent Lens.
Told through the lens of Attla’s 20-year-old grandnephew Joe Bifelt, who seeks his uncle’s help with training to compete in one of the world’s most popular sprint dogsled races, the Open North American Championship, which Attla won eight times, tells the story of Attla’s rise in the late 1960s and his lifelong commitment to keeping the traditions of his Alaskan village, Huslia, alive in an ever-evolving culture.
“In the schools, nowadays, they don’t really teach about our culture,” Bifelt said in the film. “Instead, we spend [time] learning about a place thousands of miles away, [while] back in the village we’re losing a lot of knowledge, stories, our history.” Later on the documentary, after training for weeks with Attla, Bifelt said, “I didn’t have too much experience with champions who were Native like me that [and learning about George] was the first time that I felt that rich history of where I came from.”
Watch the trailer below, courtesy of PBS’ Independent Lens: