Soon we’ll be shredding our favorite slopes – but are we sure they’re “ours”? Canadian snowboard icon and activist Tamo Campos is on a mission to raise awareness of Indigenous justice and help riders take responsibility for their sport.
For Canadian snowboarder Tamo Campos, a sense of connection and responsibility to the land took a steep turn after his first-hand experience with how an Indigenous community was fighting against land exploitation in the very mountain range that he was riding.
Continuing the tradition of activism staked by his grandfather David Suzuki, Canada’s foremost voice in environmental issues, he has founded the grassroot organization Beyond Boarding – where part of the mission is to challenge the outdoor community to reflect on its relationship to the land. Suston reaches out to Tamo Campos to learn more:
Beyond Boarding’s mission involves relearning the history of the land that the outdoor community enjoys. What do you mean with this?
Beyond Boarding is about creating awareness and a deeper connection to the mountains and the communities our sports are infringing on. In North America, this involves enhancing the understanding of this land as Indigenous land.
Many of us have never considered how snowboarding culture is steeped in colonial language. Take “exploring untouched nature,” for example. These mountains are not untouched, but there is a reason that there are no people on them anymore. In our very recent history, Indigenous peoples have literally been forced to move out of the places that we are now enjoying as parks and resorts.
When you say the outdoor community has a responsibility to the land, what kind of responsibility are you referring to?
As outdoor enthusiasts, we have a unique position to understand the impacts of the climate crisis. We spend a lot of time seeing the snowpack change. Yet we carry a lot of privilege and power that prevents us from seeing the social inequities of climate change. For me, responsibility to the land means speaking up on the root causes of climate change. It means decolonizing our connection to the mountains and ultimately it means supporting “land back”: Indigenous sovereignty over their lands.
For us, we believe this takes place from developing long term relationships to local Indigenous communities whose territories we spend time on and learning ways to support their calls to action.
Beyond Boarding also uses filmmaking in its advocacy efforts, and its latest movie release The Radicals filmed on the West Coast of British Columbia has been reviewed as being “the most important snowboarding movie of the year.” Why is that?
That is a kind review! I wouldn’t say it’s “the most important snowboarding movie.” Rather it’s a different take on the role snowboarding plays in our lives.
The Radicals sums up a lot of the work we have been doing over the past 10 years and is really about shining light on the activism work that is being done by the Indigenous communities themselves. It follows a group of snowboarders and surfers as they perform their sports, but more importantly, it also follows their learning about the frontline land defenders from the Xwísten, Tahltan, Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw, and Haida Indigenous nations.
The film is about enacting our responsibilities to the communities featured. That’s why as opposed to other backcountry movies that raise awareness by essentially “parachuting into places,” we try to really put in our time and spend years on relationship building which this film is built on.
What is some of the feedback you are getting from the people you reach with your activism work?
Let me put it this way, one of our main challenges is to reach “outside the choir.” That’s why the best feedback is when people in the outdoor community are moved and share with us how “this was news to them.”
Another challenge that we are always trying to balance is how in this type of storytelling, we need to show respect for the communities at the same time as we try to get viewers engaged. Too much doom and gloom just doesn’t work. We strive to communicate activism as an adventure story, yet without simplifying the narrative of what is at stake.
What’s coming up next for Beyond Boarding?
We’re happy to announce that we have a new movie, The Klabona Keepers, coming out Spring 2022 that’s been six years in the making. This time it’s a non-snowboarding project but it’s about land connection. We have been collaborating with a group of Iskut Indigenous community elders – or “bad ass grandmothers” – who have been protecting their sacred headwaters in northwestern British Columbia.
It’s absolutely inspiring and a great start for everyone eager to educate themselves and take their relationship to the “great outdoors” to the next level.
Top Photo: Jasper Snow-Rosen