July 15, 2024

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Navigating Travel Tales

Sask. Indigenous tour guide to appear in hit survival TV show ‘Alone’

6 min read

Last August, Michela Carriere traveled to the Northwest Territories — well within the Arctic Circle — to film the 11th season of Alone.

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Michela Carriere grew up on a trapline in the Saskatchewan River Delta, hunting and trapping game while traveling with her parents through the far north.

Now, she works as an adventure guide, organizing nature retreats and leading tours all across Saskatchewan’s remote northern wilderness areas.

So when Carriere heard about Alone, the survival competition series that challenges 10 people to survive in the wilderness for as long as they can with minimal supplies and almost no contact with the outside world — it sounded like another day at the office.

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“Being an adventure guide, I have lots of experience with camping in remote wilderness areas, and having to rely upon myself to make sure that everyone is safe,” said Carriere. “Also, the navigational skills really came in handy, and my wilderness first responder skills — knowing what to do if an accident or injury happened — that was a huge skill base for me.”

Competing on Alone would also be a chance for her to share traditional knowledge and celebrate her heritage on an international scale, all while putting her own skills and stamina to the test.

“I really wanted to be on the show because I’ve grown up living on the land,” said Carriere. “I grew up in a trapper’s cabin in the Saskatchewan River Delta. My dad is a Cree-Métis, and all my ancestors lived that life growing up — fishing, hunting, trapping.

“So when I heard about the show and I saw it, I knew I had to be on it one day.”

Last August, Carriere and nine others were taken up to the Northwest Territories, near the community of Inuvik — well within the Arctic Circle — to begin filming the reality show’s 11th season.

“This is the most northern season that has ever happened,” said Carriere. “It’s … an incredibly challenging landscape.”

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One of only three Canadians participating this season, she said she did feel a bit of a ‘hometown advantage’ as she navigated the north.

“It’s in the Mackenzie River Delta, which has some similarities to where I’m from in the Saskatchewan River Delta,” she said. “It’s very muddy, and there are lots of lakes and winding river, and similar flora and fauna. …

“And I grew up very isolated, as well — with just my family. So I had different experiences of being alone, and I had experiences hunting, trapping and being a guide. When I combined all those together, it gave me all the skills I needed to survive.”

Every season, the contestants on Alone film themselves as they travel, trap, hunt, build shelters and protect themselves from the weather and natural hazards.

They can only take 10 survival items with them. Carriere chose a duck down sleeping bag, a cooking pot, an axe, a saw, a ferro rod for fire starting, a multitool, snare wire, paracord, a fishing net and her 45-pound recurve bow.

Contestants can ‘tap out’ at any time if they feel they can no longer safely continue, or be removed from the show by medical staff. The person who stays in the wilderness the longest wins a US$500,000 grand prize.

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To prepare for the competition, Carriere knew she had to learn from the best wilderness experts she could find — so she called on her parents, Solomon and Renée Carriere, for help.

“Both my parents were big supporters on this whole journey,” she said. “My mom is a canoe guide and a land-based educator, so she was really helping me prepare mentally and organizationally. She’s just amazing at organizing things.

“And my dad was helping me prepare with all his skills, teaching me about fish nets and trap setting. I was trying to get as much knowledge from him (as I could) before I went on my journey.”

More than anything, Carriere credits her dad for teaching her to keep a positive outlook while living and working in the woods.

“He’s always joking and having fun; that’s part of Cree culture, just to have fun with it all,” she said. “I was learning that from him.”

Now that Carriere’s season of Alone has made it to TV — the first episode of Season 11 aired on the History Channel on June 13 — she says it’s “incredible” to revisit these experiences surrounded by so many friends, family members and loved ones.

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“It’s really emotional, watching the whole process again,” she said. “I’m really proud to see these amazing moments shown.”

Ever since people got to see the traditional duck decoys she built in the first episode, people have been texting her about them non-stop, she said.

Though her time in the competition was isolating by design, now that she’s home, Carriere said she feels more connected than ever — to everybody who ever played a part in passing down their traditional skills to her, and to others who have yet to learn them.

“I really hope that another young Cree-Métis woman can see this show — that any young Cree-Métis person can see this show — and see me and feel inspired to go and do the same things,” she said.

“To learn from their community, learn all those ancestral skills and get back out in the land.”

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