Recap: Indigenous Climbing Day

My Partnership with Indigenous Women Hike

I am excited to announce that I will be serving as the official health coach for Indigenous Women Hike. I am so grateful to be apart of this incredible and uplifting movement started by my friend and client, Jolie Varela, who continues to be an inspiration to the Payahüünadü (Owens Valley) community. The following comes from the IWH website; head over there now to learn more, or to take action and support the journey! Also be sure to follow IWH on Facebook and Instagram (@indigenouswomenhike).

"Under the Religious Freedom Act of 1978 we will be traveling our ancestral trade routes in prayer to honor our relatives who came before us. As Indigenous women we unite in sisterhood, we will realign with traditional and sacred spaces, and bring awareness to Indigenous issues. Through resilience and commitment, we intend to complete the 210 mile journey from cottonwood pass to Yosemite Valley in the Summer of 2018. In order to prepare ourselves and achieve balance in our bodies we will reconnect with our landscape and heal our bodies through healthy life changes." -- Indigenous Women Hike

Indigenous Climbing Day

There is a "long" history of rock climbing in and around the eastern Sierra mountains, dating back to the late 19th and early 20th century on the rugged yet breathtaking backcountry peaks, to more recent development of the boulders and cliffs that are so generously scattered across the Owens Valley. The latter of which attracts thousands of (mostly) privileged (mostly) white climbing enthusiasts from across the world each winter to recreate in some of the most iconic bouldering areas on Earth.

Yet this "long" history of rock climbing is really just a flash in the pan when compared the history of Indigenous peoples who have called this same valley home for millennia. The same Indigenous people who have, over more than a 150 years of intense colonization and oppression, been alienated from their own land. Imagine trying to reconnect with the history of your people (there are countless Paiute artifacts, including many petroglyphs, all over some of these popular climbing areas) while surrounded by flocks of often ignorant (even if well-intentioned) climbers taking over your homeland each winter. Over the last few decades, this scenario has (obviously) created a palpable tension between the Paiute people and the climbing/outdoor community at large.

Following the success of the Paiute Panel (video) at this year's AAC "Fall Highball" climbing festival, Indigenous Women Hike, Sierra Mountain Guides, and the American Alpine Club teamed up to create the inaugural Indigenous Climbing Day at the Happy Boulders just outside of Bishop, CA. Words can't express how grateful I am to have played a role in this event, providing a nutritious lunch to fuel a day of climbing, relationship-building, laughter, and tough but vital conversation. It was a special day for all of us on so many levels.

After meeting up in a very crowded parking lot (it is Bishop's busiest climbing week of the year, after all), we gathered in a prayer circle, making an offering of tobacco and paya (water) to the earth, introducing ourselves, and sharing our thoughts and feelings about the day, as well as our broader visions for the future of Payahüünadü and its inhabitants. Leading up to the event, neither group (IWH and the guides) really knew what to expect from each other; the morning prayer circle allowed us to realize that we are all on the same page, understanding that the health of this valley and the people who love it starts with the healing this relationship between two communities with an equal but different compassion and reverence for the land on which we live and recreate. As we left the prayer circle and headed up the trail into the canyon, it was already obvious that the we had started something special, and the rest of the day did not disappoint.

While I do believe that the healing process has begun, there is no denying that this will be a long, difficult process. We are on track and building something truly beautiful in this valley. It is an honor and privilege to work alongside such incredible, inspiring people and I'm looking forward to playing a continued role in the success of this movement -- we've got big things in the works for 2018 :)