Diverse NPS: Native Women’s Wilderness

Diverse NPS►

Because of growing civil unrest in 2020, I joined a coalition of fellow park enthusiasts. Our group brainstormed ideas about how we could use our combined platforms to help. We’ve previously written about the barriers many BIPOC communities face when it comes to outdoor recreation.

Each month, our group spotlights a relevant organization. These organizations are working to bridge the gap between outdoor spaces and underrepresented communities. Past features include:

As we open another month, we’re sharing another installment in our community effort to showcase organizations promoting social justice and more inclusive access to public lands. This month’s feature organization is Native Women’s Wilderness.

About Native Women’s Wilderness

  • Native Women’s Wilderness’ mission is
    • To inspire and raise the voices of Native Women in the Outdoor Realm.
    • To encourage a healthy lifestyle within the Wilderness.
    • To provide education of the Ancestral Lands and its People.

Outdoor enthusiast Jaylyn Gough founded Native Women’s Wilderness in 2017 as an Instagram group. She was frustrated by the lack of representation for both women and Native Americans in outdoor spaces. She also sought recognition for the Native roots of public lands.

Gough expanded NWW to a non-profit group with a website and ambassadors in 2018. She and the organization were featured in National Geographic and in Outdoor Retailer’s diversity panel.

Every time I was on the trail in the Rocky Mountains, I never saw a woman of color, and it’s the land our ancestors walked. I kept thinking, ‘There has to be more people like me!’

Jaylyn Gough, Calvin ‘Spark’ Alumni Profile

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8 thoughts on “Diverse NPS: Native Women’s Wilderness

  1. The Native American viewpoint becomes especially important as the controversy around Bears Ears National Monument heats up once more after President Biden’s October 8th proclamation restoring it’s 2016 boundaries. Some descendants of white families who have long resided in San Juan County, Utah say they can protect & preserve the area. State control favors voters and other special interests, often to the detriment of cultural issues. When the five tribes with ties to Bears Ears overcame their differences to form an alliance (the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition) in 2015 there was impetus for President Obama to create the National Monument.
    • National Monuments (formed by presidential proclamation using Antiquities Act to preserve cultural or other historic feature) only partially protects certain historic features (mainly by educating users, since widespread enforcement is sporadic). Usually, all pre-existing traditional land uses are grandfathered in-whether or not they preserve historic or scenic features.
    • National Parks (requiring Congressional action-both houses) exist to protect certain features for all time in the public interest. Pre-existing uses are not included. Enforcement is more consistent.

  2. A good cause, indeed. I have a good friend who is a Cherokee woman and quite active in their efforts. She is also a backpacker and loves the wilderness. I’ll share this with her in case she isn’t aware of it. –Curt

  3. I’m Curt’s Cherokee friend, and I’m pleased to get his recommendation to check this out. Possibly it’s my involvement in my Mt. Hood Cherokees community here in Portland, OR that makes me notice the lack of people of colour on trails, but I always notice it. I could relate instantly to the quote by Jaylyn Gough. During the pandemic there has been an unmistakable surge in popularity of wilderness areas and I find the trails, parks, and campgrounds filled with people every day of the week, at levels I don’t recall seeing prior to the pandemic. I am delighted to see that these new enthusiasts include many more people of colour than I’m used to seeing in the past. It’s as though the pandemic pushed them onto trails, and once they got there, they thought, “Hey, this is pretty cool.” Maybe having more POC in the wilderness is going to happen naturally once we find a way to get them out there the first time or two. Native people are always aware of their connection to the land, even while we regret not doing more to embody that connection. In other words, I think Native people are a good target audience for public land use! <3

    1. Hi Crystal! I noticed the same thing here, when I visited some trails in the Delaware Water Gap this summer. Previously, I hadn’t noticed much diversity, but this last visit I saw lots of families and people of color out for a nice day trip. It was good to see so many children, even if it was a little less peaceful. Hopefully they will continue to explore the parks as they grow up. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

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