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Meet the 2023 Indigenous Backcountry Scholarship Cohort

Meet the 2023 Indigenous Backcountry Scholarship Cohort

We all are too familiar with the barriers that people face when it comes to skiing and snowboarding: gear and lift tickets are expensive, transportation is limited, gatekeeping creates exclusion, concerns over physical and emotional safety, not having mentors that look like you... the list goes on and on.

At Coalition Snow, we're committed to addressing these very real issues that limit people's joy In the outdoors. We want to help create a culture and a community that is welcoming and inclusive. While we know we have a lot of work to do, one way that we are taking action is through the Indigenous Backcountry Scholarship.

We started this scholarship two years ago in collaboration with Deenaalee Hodgdon, a member of our Ambassador team and the Creator and Host of On The Land Media, to support increased access to backcountry skiing and snowboarding for Indigenous communities.

We are humbled to be able to host this annual scholarship and are honored to announce the second cohort of recipients. Each person will receive $1000 to expand and support their backcountry experience + a pair of Coalition Snow skis or a snowboard + an Ortovox beacon, shovel, and probe pack + outerwear from TREW Gear. They have been chosen for their exceptional leadership and ability to further the mission of the scholarship.

  • Cera Hassinan (Thacha Duta Win—Red Deer Woman), she/her, Crow Creek Sioux-Hunkpati Dakota

  • Joelle Johnston, she/her, Squamish Nation

  • Saskia Livingstone, she/her, Treaty 7 Territory in Moh’kins’tsi

  • Stephanie Hayes, she/them, Klallam/Coast Salish

  • Taylor Bennett-Begaye, she/her, Diné

This scholarship is a way for all of us who occupy and recreate on stolen land to express our gratitude to Indigenous communities who have protected and cared for the land for generations and to work toward creating equity in snowsports. 

Cera Hassinan  She/Her Crow Creek Sioux-Hunkpati Dakota

Cera Hassinan (Thacha Duta Win—Red Deer Woman), she/her, Crow Creek Sioux-Hunkpati Dakota

Cera grew up in Tempe, Arizona. Her maternal family originates from South Dakota and her paternal family is based in Cairo, Egypt. Growing up she was influenced by her grandmother, Feanette BadMoccasin Griffith (Zintkala Duta Win—Red Bird Woman), who introduced her to many Dakota traditions, such as cooking, family gatherings and ceremonies—giving Cera her Indian name—and instilled in her the value of respecting and emulating her elders.

Cera currently resides on Coast Salish lands also known as Seattle and is a PhD candidate at the University of Washington. She builds upon her family’s legacy and supports Native communities as a neuroscience researcher. Cera promotes Indigenous traditions of learning and education in the lab and classroom.

Outside of the lab, Cera finds new ways to connect to the land whether that be hiking, biking, or skiing. She is thankful to the people who introduced her to skiing, something she was initially scared of but immediately fell in love with. She looks forward to connecting with her community in and around Seattle through skiing and connecting and passing on this knowledge to others throughout her lifetime.

 Indigenous Backcountry Scholarship Winner

Joelle Johnston, she/her, Squamish Nation

Joelle is of Squamish Nation and Irish decent. She is very proud of her heritage and reconnecting with her culture. She has volunteered with the First Nations Snowboard and now the Indigenous Life Sport Academy for multiple years. The ability to teach members of the community a different way to connect with the land is a privilege for her. She loves to see her community connecting with each other and the land in a healthy environment.

Joelle started snowboarding with the First Nation Snowboard team and was given the opportunity to compete in boarder cross races. As a way to give back to the First Nation Snowboard team, Joelle has dedicated her winters to coaching and instructing the youth along the sea to sky. She has since continued her love of snowboarding and started to venture out into the backcountry. She has the goal of providing the youth the opportunity to learn about the backcountry and explore their territory.

 Saskia Livingstone  She/Her Red River Métis

Saskia Livingstone, she/her, Treaty 7 Territory in Moh’kins’tsi

I am Red River Métis and currently living in Treaty 7 Territory in Moh’kins’tsis (City of Calgary). Born in England, I spent my early years living in Japan before moving to Canada. Until our move to Canada, I did not know my identity as Métis. Growing up, I was fortunate to connect with youth organizations that helped me connect with community leaders and knowledge keepers who shared aspects of my cultural identity with me. These experiences helped me begin to understand what it means to be Indigenous, a journey I am still on today.

Growing up I didn’t participate in any mountain sports, but as a young adult I learned to climb and ski thanks to some amazing friends and mentors. As an Indigenous woman and a member of the outdoor community, it is isolating to be underrepresented in the spaces that bring me so much joy. I want to see more representation of BIPOC individuals and women in these spaces and I want to help make this become a reality.

 Stephanie Hayes  She/Them Klallam/Coast Salish

Stephanie Hayes, she/them, Klallam/Coast Salish

“Klallam Yéil dachx.n y xat.”

Stephanie was raised on the PNW coast with salt in her hair and under the wing of Klallam elders. She quickly learned that wilderness was the place anyone could belong and where home truly is. Stephanie now lives in Alaska on Lingit aaní studying marine biology and helping with language preservation of the Tlingit and Coast Salish peoples in conjunction with the University of Alaska Southeast. Her favorite community activity is to take people and school groups on rainforest walks and tide pool explorations, sharing knowledge and stories of the natural world around them.

Stephanie’s hope is to show others the majesty and peace of the wild world through language, photography, and backcountry exploration. In living on a remote land where there is only backcountry, furthering her snow skills and understanding will allow greater access to a world many feel they can only dream about. “I hope in learning and sharing I can pass on the gift of access and help others realize the joy and peace of the wilderness is not just for dreamers, but a gift from the earth we all can connect to... yee aaní kát nay.á.”

Gunalchéesh, Stephanie

 Taylor Bennett-Begaye  She/Her Diné Citizen

Taylor Bennett-Begaye, she/her, Diné

Taylor Bennett-Begaye (she/her) is a Diné citizen from the New Mexico side of the Navajo Nation. She resides on the original homelands of the Ute, Cheyenne, and Arapaho (also known as Denver) where she recently obtained her master’s degree in media and public communications from the University of Denver.

Learning how to snowboard in her mid-twenties, Taylor first noticed the amount of joy it brought her but it didn’t take long for her to notice the lack of inclusivity on the mountain for the BIPOC community, especially in Denver. However, having embraced “being comfortable being uncomfortable,” it can be difficult to handle that weight when riding when you are not represented.

Taylor’s overall goal is to create and foster a community to lower the barrier for Indigenous riders of all levels along with challenging herself to grow as a rider and enter the backcountry.

When she is not snowboarding, you can find her sewing, enjoying DIY projects, putting to use her masters degree working for TURNER PR, binging or re-watching shows, cooking new recipes, or sneaking away to see her family in New Mexico or friends around the US.


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