Cree snowmobiler, aged 9, meets early success in northern Quebec

Karter Shecapio is from Mistissini. He has already participated in two mini Ski-Doo challenges in Cree territory so far this winter and has finished on the podium in both races.

'I went fast and it was fun,' says Karter Shecapio in Cree

A young Indigenous boy stands up on his snowmobile holding a checkered flag.
Karter Shecapio from Mistissini, Que., is really into competitive snowmobile racing. With his family's help, the nine-year-old got his wish of a new Ski-Doo and so far this season has been on the podium in both races he's competed in. (submitted by Ruby Gunner)

A Cree youth in northern Quebec has found an early passion in life for snowmobile racing at the tender age of nine.

Karter Shecapio is from Mistissini. He has already participated in two mini Ski-Doo challenges, which are very popular in  the Cree territory of northern Quebec. So far this winter, he has finished on the podium in both races.

"I went fast and it was fun," said Shecapio in Cree. He just turned nine earlier this month. 

In his first mini Ski-Doo challenge of the season in Nemaska two weekends ago, Shecapio came in first.

"I was very happy when I won the race," he said.

The Nemaska Cross Country Snowmobile Challenge kicked off the many ski-doo challenges scheduled this winter in Eeyou/Eenou Istchee. There were different categories during the challenge for both men and women. They also had the children's mini ski-doo race. We spoke with Karter Shecapio from Mistissini won first place in the children's competition.

And this past weekend, Karter came in second in the Mistissini Cross Country Challenge in the children's mini race category. 

Fascinated from a young age

Ruby Gunner is Karter's mom.

She said he's been fascinated by Ski-Doo racing since attending his first race as a young boy.

"Karter was always where the Ski-Doo races were happening, going with people, this is when he said I want to race too," said Gunner, in Cree.

Karter got his first mini Ski-Doo at the age of seven.

A mother and father stand next to their son on a snowmobile in a wide open expanse of a snow covered lake.
Karter Shecapio, centre, along with his mom, Ruby Gunner, right, and dad, Abraham Shecapio, left. (Submitted by Ruby Gunner)

One of Karter's idols is Elijah Matoush, a professional racer from Mistissini who regularly wins races and championships. 

"Karter would say, 'I want to see his Ski-Doo,' or 'I want to touch his gloves.' Karter wanted to see or touch whatever Elijah owned; this is how much respect he had for Elijah Matoush," said Gunner.

At the beginning of his Ski-Doo racing, Karter wore number 38, the same number as Elijah Matoush. Recently though, the young racer has changed his number to 37, in honour of a late uncle, Charlie (Jalee) Gunner, who died in 2015.

At the start of this season, it was clear that Karter's first mini Ski-Doo was getting too small for him and the family tried very hard to help him win one by buying tickets in different community raffles. 

Karter Shecapio is having a good season in competitive mini skidoo racing in Cree territory. Betsy Longchap spoke with the nine-year-old's mother Ruby Gunner.
A young boy sits on a mini skidoo on a snow covered lake with his racing idol standing beside him.
Then eight-year-old Karter Shecapio poses with his Ski-Doo racing idol, Elijah Matoush, after winning a mini Ski-Doo challenge in Nemaska. (Submitted by Ruby Gunner)

"[He] thought he would definitely win the Ski-Doo, but he lost and was very disappointed," said Gunner, adding the family then decided to all chip in and buy one for him as a surprise. 

His Ski-Doo was given to him at his grandparents house, with all the family on both sides gathered. 

"His grandfather said to him, 'Put your hand out  … and he gave him the Ski-Doo key … Karter saw the Ski-Doo, he started to cry … leaned on the handlebars with his head down and continued to cry and he was so happy," said Gunner.

Mom worries about safety

Gunner said she does worry about her son and she and his dad talk to him about staying safe. 

"[In Nemaska] I could not watch him," said Gunner. "I felt very anxious … every time they got to the curve of the circuit it seemed like they were going to run over each other."

Karter's next race is on March 3 and 4 in Oujé-Bougoumou, another of the Cree communities in northern Quebec.

A young boy on a mini Arctic Cat snowmobile on a snowy lake.
Karter Shecapio on his new Arctic Cat mini snowmobile. (Submitted by Ruby Gunner)


Betsy Longchap is Eenouch from the Cree community of Mistissini in northern Quebec. She brings a keen storytelling ability to her role as a senior radio host and journalist with the CBC North Cree unit in Montreal. Most recently, she co-hosted CBC's first Cree-language podcast, Wiih'teh.