Tunchai Redvers takes us into the Northwest Territories.
By Britt Burritt
Growing up in Canada's northernmost region, Tunchai Redvers pined for the bustling world beyond. Now she mostly looks forward to returning to her remote, environmentally diverse home. "I'm able to appreciate that the North has made me who I am, and I cannot imagine having grown up elsewhere," says the 24-year-old. "When I visit now, I never want to leave."
With her brother, Kevin, Redvers founded We Matter, an Indigenous-led nonprofit that empowers and connects First Nations youths. "Growing up as Indigenous young people ourselves, we were so familiar with the issues and hopelessness that Indigenous youth and communities experience," she says. "In just two years, we've reached millions of people through our social media campaign, worked with thousands of Indigenous youth across the country and have created a bank of over 200 inspiring video messages."
Although she's felt the isolation that can come from growing up in the remote wilderness, she also knows how valuable being able to spend time in the Northwest Territories is. "It's a place that everybody says they want to visit, but very few actually do." Lucky for Redvers, her family keeps a rustic cabin ("with no electricity or running water!") along the Hay River, which she returns to frequently.
"The Northwest Territories is called Denendeh to local Indigenous groups. Denendeh means 'Land of the People' (or Dene people), which is what I try to always refer to it as," she explains. "My family was nomadic in this territory for thousands of years."
Below, Redvers tells us how to make the most of this (for many) once-in-a-lifetime trip.
Where in the Northwest Territories do you travel?
I grew up in the Northwest Territories and have travelled across communities north and south of Great Slave Lake—one of Canada's biggest lakes—and even up to the tundra. The NWT is massive and there aren't too many roads, so travel can be difficult and expensive. But that's what makes it so incredible and special when you get to explore.
Why do you love to go there?
There is absolutely nowhere like the NWT, the true north. In one territory you have boreal forest, Canadian shield, tundra and mountains. From the sunsets to frozen lakes to northern lights to rich culture and amazing foods, the NWT is magical.
Tell us your favourite place there.
There is a stretch of road called the Ingraham Trail just outside of Yellowknife, which is amazing and breathtaking, whether for driving, camping or hiking. It's lake after lake, stunning views and waterfalls.
What do you do there?
I love going for long walks on the icy, frozen lakes in the winter, especially when the sun is setting (at 3:30pm!). Camping and fishing in the summer are a blast, as is boating at midnight when it's still bright outside! In the summer, the NWT is known as the "Land of the Midnight Sun."
How do you get there?
There are two main ways to get to the area where I grew up: you fly into Yellowknife, which is the capital city, or you drive up from the Alberta border. Most communities south of the lake are accessible by road, but anything more north than Yellowknife is only accessible by charter plane.
Who do you travel with?
I once road-tripped all the way from Toronto to Yellowknife with my father. It was 5,000 kilometres and took us five days of driving. It was incredible, and I recommend the trip to anyone. (But make sure you have some good playlists!) I'm usually driving with family—the roads are pretty isolated, so it's always better to be with someone, though solo drives through the North are pretty amazing reflection times. I always tell friends in the South that when you drive in the North, you see more bison and other animals than you do vehicles and people.
Favourite meal and place to eat there?
In Yellowknife, there is a restaurant called Bullocks, and it's honestly the best fish and chips you will ever have in your life, nondebatable. Also, fresh fish caught straight from the lake!
Where do you stay?
I always stay with family. I have family all over, so it's fun to hop around.
Your favourite memory there?
My favourite memory from growing up is picking wild berries with my mom and aunts, and now when I visit, my favourite memory is picking wild berries with my nieces. Also, watching my small dog have the most fun hopping through the snow like a rabbit.
What do you recommend packing to travel there?
In the summer, sneakers with a pair of jeans and a tee can take you from morning to night. You need to wear clothes you don't mind getting bug repellent and campfire smoke on. In the winter, layers and layers and boots and a parka—brrr! I'm also always rocking my mocs (moosehide moccasins) to keep my feet cozy. And I swear by a pair of Timberland boots! They look cool and can take you exploring across any sort of northern terrain.
In the summer, you have to remember a bathing suit, because you can't visit the NWT without jumping in the lake. In the winter, the more sweaters the better, guaranteed.