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Lakota Backcountry Skier Puts Native Americans in the Lens

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Reconnecting with the land means recognizing the people who came before us, and that life is about more than just skiing.

This ski film is about storytelling and history — specifically, the story of how Húŋkpapȟa Lakȟóta member and skier Connor Ryan came to embrace this land.

In the film, Ryan is in search of backcountry ski potential within his ancestral homeland in South Dakota. This is the first-ever film on backcountry skiing in the Black Hills (Paha Sapa) of South Dakota.

For many in this community, the Black Hills are a place of spirit, worship, and ceremony. But all of that is rooted in nature, the land. And that, deep down, is what skiing is all about: connecting with the land beneath us.

Underneath some of the shaking filming and slow narration, there’s a heartfelt storyline. There’s unique terrain, steep lines, and a history of what came before the modern government establishments on native lands.

Ideally, more stories like Ryan’s will be told in the future. And hopefully, films like these will increase diversity in the people that choose to explore nature through skiing.

This film is Episode 5 in the “Skiing States” series by Mike Whelan. It was filmed on the sacred lands of the Lakȟóta Sioux, including land within the Black Hills and Nebraska national forests.

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