Day 12 — Sunrise at -40 on Rainy Lake. A week later, and the high today was an 80 degree differential. From -40 to +4-. Minnesota is absolutely bipolar. And the warm weather is worse than the cold. I am camped just north of Warrior Hillon Lac LaCroix, but to get here was a slog. The snow is wet, heavy slush...
- Ty Olson, Monday
Among the many things other people will never experience, Ty Olson has felt the temperatures rise by 80 degrees as he skis along the U.S. and Canada border to call attention to Native American poverty and other issues caused by white settlement.
Olson, 32, is on a solo, unsupported east-to-west traverse of Voyageurs National Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, using an ancient water route used by Indigenous peoples including ancestors of the Lakota and Dakota people.
He set out to “remind us that the American experiment has left many Native peoples impoverished and cold.”
He’s also raising money, so far about $22,000, to help people on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota buy firewood.
Olson, originally from Grafton, N.D., started the 255-mile trek Feb. 11 from Rainy Lake and is heading east to his destination at Grand Portage. His trek can be followed online at https://www.skiforfire.com/updates, where he marks is progress with a GPS tracker he is carrying. People may also donate to the cause there.
His journey will take him over 35 lakes and nine rivers and across 26 portages, as he pulls 150 pounds of gear in two sleds behind him as he skis.
“I grew up where my great-great-grandfather, Samuel Olson, homesteaded in 1877. It took us five generations to admit we live on stolen land,” he writes of his motivation.
Olson writes that the poverty of Native people stems from the lands that were stolen from them. “With their ancestral economies destroyed, Native peoples were forced to either assimilate into a strange new social world built right on top of their very own lands by a foreign occupying power—America—or retreat to small, remote reservations cut off from any economic development,” he writes.
“And yet, like all Americans, my family has profited from these very same lands. How can I look at my life—the opportunities afforded to me, my health, my education, any material success—and then look to my Native neighbors today, often impoverished and full of despair, and not decry an injustice of monumental proportion?”