Time to Reconnect: Native Women’s Wilderness

“It’s not my people that have to reimagine who should explore the outdoors. It’s everyone else that needs to. It’s the outdoor industry that needs to change and include all people of color to explore our earth, just like my people always have.” – Native Women’s Wilderness founder Jaylyn Gough. 

Yenabah” is a Navajo name meaning “Warrior woman who wanders the mountains.” This is the Navajo name of Jaylyn Gough, founder and executive director of Native Women’s Wilderness. True to her name, Jaylyn founded Native Women’s Wilderness to get Native women outside and break assumptions about who is and who deserves to be outside. 

We sat down with Jaylyn to learn more about her motivations for creating this meaningful organization. 

nww1

HOKA: What is the mission of Native Women’s Wilderness? 

Jaylyn: To inspire and raise the voices of Native Women in the outdoor realm. To encourage a healthy lifestyle grounded in the wilderness. To educate Natives and non-Natives on the rich beauty and heritage of the Ancestral Lands beneath our feet. 

HOKA: Why is it important to you to encourage connection with Ancestral Lands? 

Jaylyn: The land our ancestors walked on is the land that gives us strength. It gives us an opportunity to see who we are, but also who we could be. We receive healing from the land. There’s the Trail of Tears, there’s the Long Walk, and there are so many places where I can feel the strength of my ancestors as I walk. If they were able to get through the Long Walk, I can overcome the challenges of my life. 

Our history may be broken. Too many spirits, hearts and lives are broken. The land is crying. But I believe that the only way to reimagine what can be, the only way to heal, is to revisit and connect with the land that connects us all. I think many people who have that connection to the land feel that strength, and honor the land, and honor our ancestors because it’s who we are. It’s engrained in us. To be in the land is to live and breathe for me. I don’t have to think about it. It’s how I get through life. 

nww2

HOKA: Through your life, has your personal relationship with being in the outside ever gone through a change? 

Jaylyn:  As a child living on the reservation, everyone looked like me. Everyone had the same black hair. We would play outside and we would flick baby rattlesnakes at each other, or boys would put black widows in my hair. I think once I realized that not everyone looks the same in the “real world” it became a huge injustice to me that not all people were represented. Why is it that only white CIS gender people are allowed and are represented outside? Why can’t my people be represented outside? Why are we not given the same opportunities when, actually, this is our land and it’s through broken treaties and pushing our people off into the reservation that we have lost this? We know the land better than anyone else.   

So that has really propelled me to figure out, how do I make it? How do I get a little girl to look up and see someone that looks like her outside, and give her that opportunity to do amazing things? I want her to know that she can be a mountaineer and go climb Fourteeners or even Mount Everest.   

Meet Jaylyn and Native Women’s Wilderness in HOKA ONE ONE: Time to Reconnect. 

speedgoat-mid-gtx

Time to Represent: Black Girls Trekkin’

“Nature belongs to us all to enjoy, to protect. No tree, rock, or any star in the sky above cares where you come from or who you are or what color your skin is or how fast you go. We know nature only wants us to share in its power and imagine where we can all go together.” – Black Girls Trekkin’ Co-founder Tiffany Tharpe. 

Los Angeles, CA natives Tiffany Tharpe and Michelle Race met when they were assigned close lockers in high school. After continued years of friendship and a shared love of the outdoors, Black Girls Trekkin (BGT) was born in November of 2017. Now, two years later, BGT celebrates diversity and inclusion in the outdoors with a community of almost 8,000 people on Instagram and frequent group hikes around LA. 

We sat down with the co-founders to learn more about how they are reimagining what it means to get outside. 

bgt1

HOKA: What was your vision for BGT when you started the group two years ago? 

Michelle: BGT is trying to re-imagine who is represented in the outdoors. We hoped that the group could be a place for everyone because the outdoors is for everyone who wants to be there. The mission of BGT is to promote diversity and inclusion in the outdoors and to inspire people to protect and conserve it. 

HOKA: What is your take on the current state of representation in the outdoor industry? 

Michelle: I think there are people of color, people of all genders, people of all backgrounds that are in the outdoors all the time. It’s not that they aren’t there. It’s just that we don’t get to see it in marketing. And, so, I think it’s about changing the perspective of everyone. Even if you don’t see yourself, you can be outdoors. 

Tiffany: Personally, growing up I didn’t see a lot of representation outdoors. I was a little different than most kids our age. Even though I didn’t see it, I was still interested in learning about it.

“I think most kids will be more inclined to go outdoors if they see themselves represented from a young age.” – Tiffany Tharpe

bgt2

HOKA: What would you tell the outdoor industry to help them improve and be more representative? 

Tiffany: I would say that they’re doing well in starting to promote diversity in the outdoors, but they could be doing better. So, instead of just showcasing People of Color outdoors or just showing up for Pride month and having a gay couple on the trail, maybe hiring more diverse people up top or having more campaigns to help people who cannot afford to get into the outdoors. 

Michelle: I would say that the landscape of who’s in the outdoors is changing. It’s important for them to keep up with who’s outdoors now and to look around and notice that there are people from lots of different backgrounds that don’t see themselves in the outdoors.

“The outdoor industry can play a big part in changing who feels comfortable in the outdoors.” – Michelle Race

bgt-3

HOKA: How does this play into protecting the environment? 

Tiffany: The world is shifting and minorities will soon technically be the majority. And if the minorities are the majority and they don’t have people representing the outdoors, then the outdoors won’t have a voice. So, for groups like BGT we’re trying to get people involved in the outdoors and inspire them to protect it, because the outdoors deserves that protection. 

HOKA: Can you tell us more about how you have created a community of trust to help welcome new people to the trail? 

Tiffany: If someone is struggling on a hike there’s always someone there to talk them through. We always have extra snacks and water, and then if we need we’ll turn around and stop the trail because we don’t want anyone to keep pushing themselves if they can’t do it. And then we can always try again. The trail’s always going to be there, hopefully. So, it’s just kind of working together on the trail and making sure everyone’s okay. We never get disconnected from one another. 

Michelle: Yeah, I think for me, it came out of doing a lot of summer camps. We always had a counselor at the front and someone in the back to corral everyone. So, it was pretty natural for me to kind of just go to the back and make sure that we didn’t leave anyone behind. We are going to get to the top together, we are going to make it back to the bottom together, and we are doing this for everyone. We’re all in it together. It’s really important for me to make sure that everyone feels like they’re a part of the group at every step. 

bgt4

HOKA: What has been one of your favorite moments from a hike? How does BGT bring you joy? 

Michelle: One of our more regular reactions that I love is people going back to their cars and just hugging each other. It’s a small moment, but it shows how close the group has become. Even though everyone is so tired at the very end, everyone hugs each other before they leave. And I think that’s so nice to see. Yeah. That’s one of my favorite things. 

Tiffany: The joy comes for me when we get first-time hikers with us on the trail and they want to come back and do it again. And then we see them coming back on more of our hikes and getting into it and making friends. It just brings a lot of joy to me. 

HOKA: How many women are a part of BGT right now? 

Michelle: We have anywhere from ten to 25 people that come on our hikes from different backgrounds of life. Even though our group is small and we’re just starting out, it’s growing well. I know we are making a difference in those ten to 25 lives and that matters to me. 

HOKA: How can people get involved with BGT? 

Tiffany: Follow our Instagram! Or you can join our email list to learn about upcoming hikes. At some point, we will be scouting for ambassadors outside of LA to plant the seed worldwide. 

HOKA: What is your advice to anyone who might be nervous to get outside for the first time? 

Tiffany: I would tell them, “You belong here. The outdoors is for everyone. Don’t let people’s stares discourage you. There is a community of people worldwide that are doing the same thing. We’re getting outdoors. We’re breaking these stereotypes and you are not alone. See what the outdoors has to offer for you.” 

Michelle: I would tell Women of Color, “You’re already tackling so many challenges every single day that to tackle a mountain, that’s nothing. You got this. 

Meet Tiffany, Michelle and Black Girls Trekkin’ in HOKA ONE ONE: Time to Represent. 

Learn more about HOKA trail products here. 

challenger-mid

 

Tear down, build back up, repeat: Bringing diversity to the outdoors with Jose Gonzalez

Tear down. Build back up. Repeat.

Some of us like to work out, whether it’s hitting the gym, pursuing a sport with discipline, or some other physical activity for process or outcome, be it indoors or outdoors. This is not dependent on body size even if we may desire a certain fitness level—to look a certain way, feel a certain way, perform a certain way.

For me, I like to run, especially hitting the trail for a trail run. I do it for spiritual, mental and physical health.

jose-blog

One thing about working out is that it is you agreeing to put yourself in a physical state of discomfort. We likely don’t say, “OK, time for me to go put myself in a state of physical discomfort,” and yet that is the reality of what is happening as we put our bodies through the stress of building muscle by breaking it down and then regenerating it to be stronger, faster, nimbler, etc. We place stress and demands on our physiological systems to adapt.

We can go on a trail run, a long hike, climb, or engage in another activity that we may enjoy and have fun doing, while we can still be putting our body in a state of discomfort, especially if we are training.

I see a comparison to work we do on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the outdoors and overall in the environmental and conservation field, where discomfort is also part of the process and some of us actively do not engage in the work to avoid that discomfort. We may think first about the discomfort rather than the goal and work that goes in for any desired outcome. We fear the training. We fear the experience.

Furthermore, when working out we do not simply go and lift the heaviest weights in the gym, climb the hardest mountain, run the most technical trail, ski down the steepest slope and so on—especially if we are doing it for the first time.

That is one of many ways we can get hurt.

We need some type of plan, goal, support system and a look at what feeds us, literally and figuratively speaking. Maybe we need a coach. Maybe a way to check progress. Maybe we need a new diet.

jose-blog-2

We also need to look at self-care and restoration, how and when you rest and take care of yourself in order to keep going and not give up. Checking in with yourself to address harm, to heal and get back on track or reassess your goal.

I share all that because “diversity work” in the outdoors is critical, for a host of reasons that include closing equity gaps, honoring all of our unique and diverse connections to the land and addressing the reality that the communities of today are the audiences and stewards of the outdoors where we play and a public lands system that provides a wealth of benefits.

That is an important reality to acknowledge: the present and future of nation is one of difference, diversity and plurality — and we need to honor, respect and value that for the health of the outdoor industry and our public lands.

Yet many may fear doing this work for the discomfort that is part of the work. We cannot let fear dictate how this work needs to be done.

Supporting diversity in the outdoor space is also not about being trendy or reactive. It is an outcome of intentional work that will include mistakes and hence planning on how to address that. We will trip and fall and skin our knees on the trail. It will hurt. We get back up and run again. But we also do not want to be careless about how we trip or hurt others, hurt ourselves or take others down with us. Hence the importance of situational awareness and support.

jose-blog-3

We value diversity in our natural landscape. No one really says, “That’s a beautiful monotonous forest,” or “lovely homogenous ecosystem.” Yet we may stumble on recognizing or even verbalizing why that diversity should be seen, heard and valued in communities that recreate in those same landscapes, that work in outdoor industry brands, that design and create in the narrative of the outdoors, that lead companies and organizations.

The simplicity of why diversity is important is because it provides the beauty, complexity, expansion and strength we see in the natural world. That matters in public lands, our outdoor brands, our conferences, our marketing, our production and our leadership in the outdoors. It is the horizontal and vertical spectrum. That means the diversity of lived experiences and diversity of outdoor experiences connecting in the landscape. It is also moving beyond our communities as objects of programming and marketing and being part of the design, co-creation and leadership of the space.

It is needed.

And we need to engage in the workout of what that is. To evaluate what resources and support systems are needed to have it be successful, not merely relying on good intentions and wishful thinking. To experience discomfort while not getting hurt — or at least knowing how to respond with a first aid kid and healing.

I think we can do it, with a proper workout plan.

Diversity is strength, diversity is challenge, diversity is growth, diversity is valued, diversity is needed.

Happy, and safe, trail running.