Chelsie McCutcheon is a powerful woman, and an extremely busy one. She is a soft spoken leader for her community, leading by example and she has a curious and spiritual connection to the land.
Born Chelsie Mitchell, she is Wet’suwet’en, from the community of Witset born and raised. She is proud of her roots in the Bulkley Valley and Witset, and supports her community in her leadership roles, continued connection to activity programs such as weekly Zoom yoga classes she instructs, and a dedicated mentor to the youth in her community.
She accomplishes all this while living in Squamish.
She is also an extremely proud mother and wife.
She is a Burton Ambassador for snowboards and skateboards, an Arc’teryx outdoor gear spokesperson, an ambassador of BeWilderHer, (a woman’s clothing line that represents all apparel manufacturing and selling processes that are ecological, ethical and green in one unified word).
She also has a sponsorship with Manitobah Mukluks, an Indigenous-owned company with a vision to build a vibrant, global brand that makes a significant impact in Indigenous communities.
McCutcheon snowboards, skateboards, mountain bikes, rock climbs, teaches yoga, is in the Indigenous Life Sport Academy (as a leader) and Indigenous Women Outdoors, and she is a back-county guide.
She comes from humble roots. Born to teenage parents, who enjoyed the party lifestyle until she was born. Her parents brought her home from the hospital in an apple box, and decided to pursue sobriety while raising their young daughter.
They made a conscious decision to raise their daughter in a healthy, active life style connected to the outdoors, no matter what it took.
“My family worked hard to fake it,” McCutcheon says of the equipment and gear she had for skiing as a kid growing up in poverty.
It took everything her family could scrape together to be able to afford ski lessons, but it made her realize she needed to focus on her abilities and opportunities, not the things she didn’t have.
She excelled, quickly changing from skiing to snowboarding and has been a member and leader of the First Nations Snowboard Association since 2005 and earned a spot on the B.C. Snowboard Team in 2010.
Chelsie took time away from sports after her son Cullan was born and she suffered a major brain injury. She moved to Alberta to recuperate, but after the birth of her daughter Kaida and a number of years away, the mountains called her back.
With the support of her husband Justin (she calls him “my rock”), they moved to Squamish where she and her family reside now.
McCutcheon now works with the Indigenous Life Sports Academy (ILSA) as the Whistler Blackcomb snowboard coordinator and Squamish Nation bike manager.
“I want to bridge First Nation communities with local businesses and communities to pursue outdoor recreation as a holistic tool and a career path for First Nations youth,” she said.
Additionally, McCutcheon said participation in these activities helps to bridge gaps between Indigenous and non-indigenous communities.
In 2019, she brought a pilot program home to Hudson Bay Mountain through ILSA that brought twelve youth to the mountain where the ILSA provided everything they needed for three days of skiing and boarding.
McCutcheon said this pilot program was so successful, they had plans to return in January 2020. COVID-19 changed those plans, but the program is finally coming back this month.
“We are focusing on the youth in the Witset community between 17 and 30 this time, as typically many supports stop after school,” she said. “Many times our youth will just be numb, disconnect, get into drugs or other unhealthy activities, so we want to be a positive alternative they can connect with.”
Her trip north will include some time with her parents, family and community and five days on the mountain with the group of youth. COVID will, of course, dictate her activities.
“On the mountain we are outdoors, spread out and okay,” she said.
For the future Chelsie looks ahead to a trip she wants to complete, a solo bike ride from Whistler to Witset in honour and respect for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. By “solo” she means with no support.
“That’s the point,” McCutcheon said simply.
For now, she is comfortable being a role model working diligently to open pathways for others.
“I will be “that face” that shows I’m no different than anyone else. If I can achieve all of this, coming from my background, then anyone can, and that’s especially important for Indigenous women and Indigenous youth to know.
“My long term goal is to return home and be a leader within our northern communities.”
If anyone can accomplish that goal McCutcheon most certainly can.
ILSA’s clinic will run from March 13 to 17 on Hudson Bay Mountain.
For more information check the ILSA website.