Reflections: The Backstory

When we think of “women for Nature,” we know there are many. Yet, where are they?

We are a group of four young women between the ages of 28-31 who desire to see increased visibility of female role models in Nature and outdoor education.

Historically speaking, outdoor recreation has been associated with masculinity (and colonialism), and masculinity has been associated with men. As young women in History class, we learned about voyageurs who traveled the country by canoe and on foot through rugged terrain. They were almost always male (and white). We learned about Bill Mason and John Muir, and many other male paddlers and conservationists who sought to protect places of wilderness. But where were the more than “token” women? Although many stories of women in Nature are emerging, the history of women for Nature has been dominated by “his” story.

This remains the case and is problematic. Every year we attend outdoor adventurer film festivals. We sit on the edge of our seats with the hope of watching films dedicated to female outdoor enthusiasts. Every year we are disappointed. Sometimes, out of a selection of 10 films, one or two might be devoted to women in outdoor sports, and it’s usually (although not always) a short production.

We are educators that come from across Ontario and we want to show young women that they can desire rightful recognition for women as Nature enthusiasts and activists. Three of us are certified teachers, two of us have degrees specializing in outdoor education, and one of us was previously a full time wilderness and canoe guide. We believe that access to, and experience in Nature cultivates the growth of strong, independent women who then become advocates, spokespersons, and caretakers for those natural places and each other.

However, the masculine dominated environment of outdoor education can discourage young women to engage in Nature activities and even seek employment in areas that are related to Nature. We believe that the presence of visible women role models greatly increases the self-actualization of young women. When we see women in positions traditionally relegated to men, we are empowered and emboldened by their example to follow in their footsteps and create similar opportunities for ourselves.

Arising from a desire to cultivate female bonds and to empower one another, we decided to embark on our first all-female canoe trip in July 2017. We will spend eight days paddling in Nature together, documenting our experience through video.

Our route will follow a section of the Path of the Paddle, a historical Canadian water route in Northwestern Ontario that has recently been redeveloped for public access. The video will follow each of our four narratives as we reflect on why we value time in the wilderness, what it means for us to be women in the wilderness, and the gendered nature of outdoor education.

We acknowledge that we are four women from privileged backgrounds. This has helped us to have a knowledge base to draw from for trip planning, access to equipment, and skillsets. For many women, however, embarking on an eight day canoe trip into an unfamiliar place may seem like a daunting task, and one may not know where to start. While backcountry camping is one example of how the wilderness can be experienced, the wilderness can also be enjoyed through smaller tasks such as learning how to start a fire or set up a tent. We aim to show young women they can choose their challenge according to their comfort level, financial ability, or location.

We will produce a video of our experience that teachers can use in the classroom as a curriculum resource for discussing gender and outdoor education. We will also develop complementary outdoor education lesson plans adaptable according to grade.

We are hobbyist videographers, but we feel that the “Do It Yourself” spirit of our video will connect with the younger generation. This project has been supported by Nature Canada and The Path of the Paddle Association.

At the heart of the project is our desire to empower young women to make choices so that they can become adventurers and stewards of the great outdoors.

Thank you,

Jocelyn Dockerty, Ledah McKellar, Katherine Scott, and Dayna Slingerland

The Women

We are a group of four young women between the ages of 28-31 who desire to see increased visibility of female role models in Nature and outdoor education.

Jocelyn

Jocelyn Dockerty showed up late to piano practice as a kid because she was too busy digging ponds. Hailing from a farm community and spending a near decade in Montreal, she has now transitioned to living in the boreal forest region of Northwestern Ontario. She gets all excited about fiddleheads emerging in the spring and blueberry picking in the summer. Aside from spending time wandering the woods, Jocelyn is also passionate about the value of surrounding yourself with inspiring women who defy stereotypes. She has been surrounded by such women for much of her life. She is excited to spend time with great women during this canoe trip. Jocelyn also is adamant about the need for decolonization in Canada. She is intrigued at the process of paddling through what is often portrayed as a voyageur route. She hopes she can challenge that and recognize the route’s connection to Indigenous history and present day realities.

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Ledah

Ledah McKellar loves paddling, camping, fishing, the outdoors, and a good story. Recent transitions in her life had her missing strong female bonds. One day it occurred to her that she could merge her love of paddling with her desire to connect to more women. From there she invited three of her favorite women to embark on her first all-female paddling adventure! She can’t wait to see what shenanigans they get into.

Ledah is interested in expression through video and photography, and therefore excited to have the chance to film this adventure. You can see more of her adventures at dandelionsniffer.com

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Katherine

Katherine (Kat) Scott literally thinks your soul dies if you spend too much time looking at concrete and not enough time connected to people (and animals!), plants and place.  A feminist to the core, Kat believes it is imperative that women connect to their inner wild woman and seek out creativity, curiosity and love.  And because of this she feels so fortunate to be spending 9 days with these strong, intelligent and inspired women. Previously a backwoods wilderness canoe guide and currently working towards her homesteading goals, Kat is counting down the days until her nights are filled with campfire, boxed wine and wide open spaces!

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Dayna

Dayna Slingerland has always loved being outdoors and on the water. Growing up in Penetanguishene Ontario she has always felt a strong love for the waters of Georgian Bay. Now living in Thunder Bay she takes every opportunity to be outdoors, be it cycling, hiking, canoeing or simply walks in the woods she finds her time spent outdoors is the most calming for her. She is a teacher and an artist and celebrates the beauty of process in her artwork, acknowledging that what happens in the process of making art is as important as the final piece. She loves felting and working with natural materials. She hopes that in this canoe trip she can do the same, enjoy the process through each moment. She hopes to integrate some art making on this trip to celebrate the process of the trip, from the early planning, to the packing, paddling and small beautiful moments in between.

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The Route

On July 22-July 29 we will paddle the Quetico section of the Path of the Paddle.

* Our route has actually changed since the time of this post! To avoid having to shuttle, and to allow ourselves to engage in “slow travel” so to speak, we are now doing a loop. We are starting at Bemar Lake, located southeast of the Park, and we will see where the winds take us!

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Quetico - Route
This picture depicts our original route. We will now take Bemar Lake → anywhere the days take us! Exit through Bemar Lake. Estimated # of portages? Who knows! Estimated km? Who knows!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Video

We videotaped our trip.

We expect the video to be complete in Winter/Spring 2017.

Here is a little preview of what some of the trip was like!