Find your roots in nature with Indigenous Women Outdoors

"It’s said we carry our ancestors wherever we go. Knowing I was in this special place, where I know my ancestors have been and being able to talk with them in this magical setting,” says Myia Antone, co-founder of Indigenous Women Outdoors, of her backcountry skiing experiences.

“I have never felt more like myself in those moments. And this is really what backcountry skiing is for me,” Antone says.

Inspiration in 2020 is happening in all kinds of forms and inspiration coming from Indigenous communities means there are superheroes at work.

Myia Antone knows that getting outside helps with the healing process. 

Last year at the Indigenous Tourism World conference my path crossed with Sandy Ward, a long-time member of B.C.’s Indigenous Snowboard Team. Given her passion for snow sports, it was special for us @SnowSeekers to have her write this piece about the 2010 Olympics and what it meant for her to have a place on the team. If you didn’t have the chance to read that story here.

Now, Ward is taking her passion for snow to a whole new level partnering as co-founder with Antone of B.C.’s newest inspiration outlet – Indigenous Women Outdoors.

“With what is going on in the world right now, getting outside is so important and so healing. To be offering transportation, gear, food, knowledge with courses and experiences, is not only going to help Indigenous women access the backcountry, but is also going to help the outdoor industry to have more Indigenous women as leaders,” Ward says.

“Until three weeks ago I thought I was the only Indigenous women in the backcountry, but then the power of Facebook brought us together,” says Ward.

Ward is taking her passion for snow to a new level partnering with Indigenous Women Outdoors. 

Through a grant, Antone started a hiking program in 2019 that enabled a series of Squamish Nation women to get outdoors, to reoccupy the territory spiritually, mentally and physically and to be back out on the land. The program went really well.

Antone realized that all Indigenous women need healing and getting outside provides that healing. By starting a non-profit, she could provide more opportunities for Indigenous women and those from the Squamish and neighbouring Nations along the Sea to Sky Highway. “We come from strong communities and by coming together builds stronger connections and stronger communities.”

She says there’s no better time for helping strengthen Indigenous communities.

“It’s reality. We as Indigenous are targeted, by the government, by non-Indigenous. We are seeing that in Halifax and in the U.S. right now, so just being able to offer a safe space for Indigenous women to come together, to learn from each other and to learn about themselves is really one of the end goals here,” says Antone.

It’s exciting to learn from Antone and Ward about the response they have seen so far from the industry and from those who instantly understand what they are trying to do.

In their first year, they plan to build out their base. “We know there are not a lot of Indigenous women in the backcountry … so we will grow next year with mentors from this season, and introducing more into the backcountry, we will continue to see more women into our traditional territories in new ways,” says Ward.

Antone and Ward plan to build their base and are looking for mentors and guides to help.

Indigenous Women Outdoors is looking to achieve:

  • Like-minded connections between women into the backcountry and healing along the way.
  • Future plans include members becoming backcountry guides to spur new employment opportunities,
  • Tourism along the Sea to Sky is huge, but “no one really acknowledges the territory they are in.”

Plans for the 2020/21 season include one workshop and one trip per month.

With all the stories about how social media is disconnecting us, the opposite is true in this initiative. It will be exciting to follow Ward and Antone’s journey.

We’ve asked Ward to write a story for SnowSeekers in February, giving a progress report on how the group is coming together. Meanwhile, you can support them today by donating to their cause. You’ll find all those details and much more on their website.

In addition to funding, they are also looking for donated gear or women to get involved to share their time and experience with participants, or even teach an outdoor course.

Share this story and some inspiration. We @SnowSeekers thank you!

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