Meet Emily Bayha
Emily Bayha heard about Walk to Tuk when she was in elementary school in Norman Wells. It wasn’t until she moved to Yellowknife for grade ten that she started participating in the NWTRPA’s annual winter walking challenge. Emily is a member of the Fam Jammers, a motley crew of walkers spread across North America.
Like many young people in the NWT, Emily, who is originally from Délı̨nę, is attending high school away from her family and her community. She lives with family friends (also members of the Fam Jammers) in Yellowknife’s Old Town.
During the fall of her first year at Sir John Franklin High School, Emily took the bus to and from school. When Walk to Tuk started in January, she decided, with the encouragement of her host family, to try commuting on foot. It took a little longer, especially in the mornings, but Emily found herself enjoying the quiet time. In addition to walking to and from school, Emily started to go for walks in the evenings and on the weekend.
A few weeks into Walk to Tuk, Emily added skiing to her repertoire: “I learned to ski on a camping trip when I was seven, but I didn’t ski again until last year.” Emily borrowed equipment from her host family. It was love at first glide: “Skiing is so amazing. It’s so cool. It’s like you’re skating, but with really long feet!”
Exercise, but especially walking, became one of the ways in which she navigated her new life and the challenges of living away from her family: “I wasn’t myself when I moved here. I was having a tough time adjusting to everything,” Emily recalls. She found her way back to herself through walking: “I find walking therapeutic. It’s my time. I can get away for a little bit. It’s also time for reflecting.”
Even after Walk to Tuk ended, Emily continued walking: “Walking is just something I do now. It’s part of my routine.”
Emily can walk anywhere, but she prefers spots where she “can see trees or the land”: “Growing up on Great Bear Lake, I developed this respect and appreciation for the land. I’m Dene. When I’m on the land, I feel connected. I’m also learning. I’m seeing, hearing, feeling.”