Christine Hill ~ Brown Folks Fishing

Christine Hill ~ Brown Folks Fishing

If you follow the Instagram feed of Christine Hill (@misschrisyface )you’ve probably been inspired to at least consider taking up fly fishing. An environmental lobbyist for the Sierra Club based in Washington D.C., she splits her time between the Halls of Congress and the mountain streams of Haines, Alaska. Along with her boyfriend, professional fishing guide Greg Schlachter, Hill hauls in enormous Coho, Chum, Kug and King salmon varieties with infectious joy and enthusiasm. With every shot she inspires her fans and followers to imagine themselves casting a fly rod along the rocky banks of a river near Glacier Bay National Park.

A short film from the Outbound Collective brings those images to life. Part of the #everyoneoutside series directed by Greg Balkin with support from Kampgrounds of America and HOKA One One, this latest episode shares the importance of representation and community building among those who are too seldom seen as part of the outdoor lifestyle. Featuring a few stills from the nonprofit Brown Folks Fishing Instagram page the film beautifully illustrates how a bond can be established between complete strangers online to create a sense of belonging where everyone is welcome to participate.

Photo by Greg Schlachter

“It’s been really amazing to see a bunch of people of color in the outdoors really putting a lot of energy into representation and equity. That I think is the coolest part about social media,” Hills says in the film. “People who are of marginalize communities have banded together and said, ‘we are going to do this ourselves. We are going to create space in the outdoors for people who look like us.’ And we’re going to do it together.”

T  he shared experience of an online community can help to forge a lasting relationship with the natural world. Though many might suggest that a sport like fly fishing can only reflect the values of the wealthy and the privileged, Hill insists that through her time outside as an angler she has made a home for herself in communion with the land and water resources upon which all living things depend.

“I feel like this is where I belong. It makes me feel alive,” she said. “That’s what nature brings to me.”

Like most of us since the beginning of the Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020, Hill has been sheltering at home. In the interests of stopping the spread several national parks and recreation areas have been closed, and even the most intrepid travelers are restricting their movements to locales nearby. Along with her work as an advocate for the natural environment Hill has spent a bit of her time indoors tying flies in anticipation of her next Alaskan adventure. And now more than ever she understands how important it is to have a connection to the world outside.

Photo by Greg Schlachter

“Going on my 4th week of physical distancing and working from home, it hasn’t been as bluntly apparent as it is now that nature and outdoor access are so fundamentally connected to our well-being, both physically, but more than ever, mentally,” she told me via Instagram. “Mother Nature provides us with the opportunity to connect back with the earth, re-center, destress from our daily lives and rejuvenate our mind and soul.”

But when the shelter-at-home orders are lifted and the parks reopen there will still remain several barriers preventing large segments of our population from venturing outside. But disparities of disposable income and leisure time along with false perceptions of who belongs in nature and who does not, we must continue to encourage all people to see themselves as part of the natural landscape. As we advocate for the protection of public land we must also make sure that as lovers of nature the outdoors are accessible to everyone.

“Access and space in the outdoors is a human right, but all too often it is tied to privilege,” Hill said. “We are changing that, working on access and equity in the outdoors and taking up space in nature, where we have the right to be.”

#RethinkOutside with us to create a future where everyone has positive experiences outdoors and shares the joy, health, growth, and sense of community that come with it. Join us in amplifying a shared narrative to engage new partners and allies.