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Riding Red: A New Way Forward for Indigenous Youth Premieres at the Whistler Film Festival this week

Updated: Oct 6, 2023

The first snowfall always brings a bout of stoke, especially for the latest cohort of Indigenous youth who will have a chance to connect with their land in new ways this season.

Riding Red, a short film directed by Squamish resident, filmmaker, and ally Ross James Reid and produced by ILSA leaders Court Larabee and Chelsie McCutcheon, celebrates the impact that access to unstructured sports has on Indigenous youth while also showcasing a model that can be adapted in other communities.

The film, which was two years in the making, was first conceptualized when Chelsie and Ross collaborated on a video for Whistler Blackcomb back in 2018. Ross saw an opportunity to lend his talents behind the lens to support Indigenous voices and amplify our stories and lived experiences. The collaboration expanded to include Court, and ultimately Myia Antone, Sandy Ward, Mikey Barton from our ILSA Crew.

Since its inception in 2003, ILSA, formerly the First Nations Snowboard Team (FNST), has provided free access to sports programs for Indigenous and in-care youth along the Sea-to-Sky corridor as a tool to confront the destructive legacy of intergenerational trauma, reconnect youth to the land, and increase their physical and mental well-being.

To date, thousands of youth have been empowered to break cycles, build stronger communities, and create social change.

Chelsie has been part of the ILSA Crew since its FNST days, inspired by her own connection to the mountains as a childhood skier. “I have always had a dream to invite the community to experience these activities,” Chelsie, a member of the Wetʼsuwetʼen First Nation, said in reference to initiating the Witset Mountain Mentorship program in her home village. The five-day program aimed at Indigenous youth ages 17-29 focuses on resort etiquette, recognizing land and territory, and building leadership skills to confidently navigate the mountains and share their learnings with their families and community. “It is important to acknowledge that Indigenous leaders and mentors are here in the outdoor industry,” said Chelsie. “Building leaders means tapping into a passion they didn’t know they had. Many do not realize their connection to the land. Our programs allow for self-exploration and healing in a wilderness setting and open the potential for a career in the industry and bring more Indigenous representation to our land.”

Riding Red premiered at the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival in November 2021 and is making its debut at the Whistler Film Festival on Thursday, December 2nd at 4:00pm and Sunday, December 5th at 8:00pm at the Maury Young Arts Centre. Tickets can be purchased here.

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