(gentle music) - [Baratunde] Change, in nature, it's the one constant.
Even this, the tallest freestanding sand dune in North America is always changing.
Slowly but surely, the wind building it up and tearing it down one grain at a time.
(gentle music) I've come to a state that is being radically transformed by the winds of change, and I've come in part to change my own understanding of this place, because this dune-filled desert isn't in Arizona, or California, or New Mexico.
It's a place that contains more than I ever knew, and where change is very much in the air, Idaho.
(gentle music) My name is Baratunde Thurston, I'm a writer, activist, sometimes comedian, and I'm all about exploring the issues that shape us as Americans.
- [Woman] Yes.
(Baratunde claps) (water splashing) - [Baratunde] This country is wild, and its natural landscapes are as diverse as its people.
♪ Hey ♪ - There it is, there it is.
How does our relationship with the outdoors define us, as individuals and as a nation?
- [Announcer] "America Outdoors with Baratunde Thurston" was made possible in part by a grant from Anne Ray Foundation, a Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropy.
This program was also made possible by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you.
(gentle guitar music music) I'm gonna level with you, I have a deep connection with many places across this great land.
Some have been important in my own story, and some have just loomed large in my imagination, but Idaho, I don't have any connection to Idaho, in fact, it's one of the few states that I've never visited.
I don't think stopping for gas counts.
Don't get me wrong, it sounds like a lovely place, lots of beautiful scenery and cows, and potatoes.
But here's the thing, Idaho was one of the fastest growing states in the country, with no signs that it's letting up.
The population has ballooned by almost 300,000 people since 2010.
That's a lot of new faces in a state of less than 2 million, but there's a reason Idaho is growing so fast, people are looking for something, maybe it's a respite from the modern world, or maybe it's just a little more elbow room.
Like them, I'm a stranger here, looking for connection, and my hunch is that I'll find it with the people who live, work and play here in the great outdoors.
(gentle guitar music) Martin Black is a fifth-generation rancher whose family's been raising cattle for over 150 years.
- [Martin] We gotta get you dressed right now.
- [Baratunde] Yeah, ready to get dressed.
I thought I was dressed but now- - Well this is real cowboy stuff.
(Baratunde laughs) - [Baratunde] Real cowboy stuff, huh?
I guess real cowboys don't shop at the department store.
- [Martin] Just like at the carnival, huh?
(Baratunde laughing) - [Baratunde] And I'm betting real cowboy also don't use stairs to mount their horse.
- Just like that.
- Martin certainly doesn't, though he does stretch first.
Cowboy yoga, huh?
- Cowboy yoga.
- (laughing) It's pretty lumber there.
I reckon it's best that we go ahead and mosey on down the trail.
(whimsical music) Martin's ranch sits on high inter-mountain desert land, in Idaho Southwestern corner.
The only life visible to my eyes is the patchy desert grass and some sage brush that looks like it's rolled in from one of those TV Westerns I watched as a kid.
So, Martin, what does it mean to be a cowboy in Idaho.
- The cowboy term, more or less came to this country, to my knowledge, more with the rodeo.
In this area, we traditionally refer to ourselves as Buckaroos.
- Which comes from the Spanish, vaquero.
- The word vaquero means rider handling cattle.
So if you're somebody paid to look after cattle or walk cattle or whatever, from a horse, I guess that's where the term buckaroo would come into.
(upbeat music) - Martin's spread is a little over 1,000 acres.
So for someone like me, who's basically lived in cities my whole life, 1,000 acres sounds like infinity, what d'you need that much space for?
- You probably have more grass growing in your park than I do on this ranch.
(horse whinnies) If you look at the acres of green grass, the creeks are dry here, it's a drought year.
So it's not really productive, it takes a lot of acres.
(hooves clacking) (gentle guitar music) It turns out, if you wanna raise cattle, you gotta have grass to feed them, but these arid desert lands don't see a lot of rain, so you've gotta make up for it in sheer acreage, up to 100 acres per head of cattle.
(whimsical music) - Ranching today is a slow way to starve to death.
The land doesn't produce enough to support a family, unless you're running about 500 cows, more or less, then, if you're a good manager, you can generate enough that you can raise a family on and still pay the bills.
- [Baratunde] With money tight, Martin never pays somebody else to do work that he can do himself, not that there's anybody nearby to do the work anyway.
- You wear a lot of hats, you gotta be a negotiator, you gotta be a businessman, you gotta be a cowboy, you gotta be a horseman, you gotta be a farrier, you gotta be a veterinarian for your horses and your cattle.
I mean the list just goes on and on and on because you don't have the money to hire professionals all the time.
- [Baratunde] Martin really can do it all, he's even a pretty good TV producer.
- You probably should be a little bit ahead of me 'cause that camera's over here, right?
- Smart move.
I'm not blocking you out.
I told you, it's not my first rodeo.
(Baratunde laughing) - [Baratunde] For Martin, it all comes down to doing things the right way, which usually he means, the way his forefathers did it.
- I don't do everything the way they used to do it.
I like electricity, I like running water, I like hot water and a hot shower.
There's a lot of things I don't do that my granddad done but there's a lot of things, I still think it's a better way, but you gotta be a Stockman enough, and horseman enough to be able to do it.
- And trust me, Martin Black is horseman enough to do almost anything.
He's traveled the world, breaking colts and teaching horsemanship, and has an intuitive understanding of his animals.
I've been on a lot of vehicles in my life, especially recently, but this one moves differently.
You know, breeze got a heart rate, I can feel its sensitivity to my mood.
- The way I ride a horse, I don't just operate 'em like a piece of machinery, I try to work on their emotions a little bit, and keep 'em willing to do what I want, and not just forcing them.
You know, they're working animals, they're not pets, they're not companion animals, they're working animals, and I'm a out here doing a job and they're out here doing a job.
- These are your coworkers.
- Real cowboy stuff.
- Real cowboy stuff.
(soft music) Real cowboy stuff, doing things the traditional way sounds like a lot of work, and while it's a lifestyle I admire, the reality of ranching is that it's only getting tougher.
A glut of production combined with a small number of cattle processors has kept prices low.
Since getting by on raising cattle alone is no longer feasible, Martin makes extra money teaching Buckaroo skills to greenhorns like me.
- All right, so in order to get a correct throw, we have to have a correct swing.
- Okay, correct throw requires a correct swing, that makes sense.
(gentle music) Just put your loop in your this hand, and I wanna go through this with you- - Okay.
- Just like that.
Okay, here's position one.
- Position one.
- Position two is the back of your on top of your head, on top of your head, on top, right, center like that, okay?
- Like that.
Oh, that requires some flexibility.
- Now, number three is, reach in the back seat 'cause we need some beer money.
- Oh, okay.
- We're going into the drive-in liquor store.
So after we get the beer money, you reach out the window with you palm down, and drop it.
Your hand is flat and you come back to here, and get your thumbs down.
That's our swing.
For all that's changing in modern ranching, there's still no better way of catching a steer, chalk up another win for tradition.
- Toss it on there.
(can clacks) I knew you had it in you, I knew you had the potential.
(Baratunde laughs) (can clacks) Yeah, go left, go left, go left, go left.
Now, I got the hind... Oh God, you broke his neck.
But I got the hind feet.
(Baratunde laughing) - He's not going anywhere.
- You killed my cow.
(Baratunde laughing) - And while I'm happy to stop while I'm ahead, it's clear there's no quit in Martin, his cowboy-school and Colt training are about more than the demands of his bottom line, they're about preserving a way of life for the next generation- - My son, for example, he's got five kids, and he wants 'em raised on a ranch, that's how he was raised, that's how I was raised, I mean, that's how we've done it for generations basically, but he wants that atmosphere.
(soft music) - [Baratunde] But it's the quiet and the emptiness of that atmosphere that most draws Martin in.
When you're out here, riding, what d'you feel?
- But I enjoy just this vastness.
I go Eastern states and see the trees, and you can't see 50 feet.
I don't like that, I like to see the distance, I like to see if there's somebody over there, or maybe I wanna go see 'em, maybe I don't wanna be seen.
Nobody gets to jump on you out here very easily.
- (laughs) It's hard to sneak up on you?
- Yeah, it's hard to sneak up, you can see 'em coming for 20 miles.
People think you're a hermit or something, well, I don't care, maybe I am, but I like the isolation, the privacy.
If I want the company, I can have a company, I can go to town or I can invite people over for dinner or something, but if I wanna be left a hell alone, it's no problem, just leave the gate shut, and nobody bother you.
(Baratunde laughs) - You do not disturb zone.
- (chuckles) Yeah.
- [Baratunde] Do not disturb, it's what a lot of long-time residents of Idaho are saying these days, as more and more newer revivals move to the Gem State, but surprisingly, Martin has a different take on the subject.
- They come in gross, they got campers and everything else, and they're good to get along with most of 'em.
There's some of 'em that they think they own the whole world and they're a little hard to get along with, but you run into that anywhere.
For the most part, these people that come out here are good.
If everybody respects everybody space, there's still plenty for everybody.
- [Baratunde] To be fair, I'm guessing this austere ranchland isn't what's luring most of these newcomers.
(upbeat dramatic music) Once you get outta the high desert though, the geography quickly transforms into an advertisement for adventure, including rugged mountains, river cut canyons, and crystal clear lakes.
And just as varied as the landscapes, are all the ways that people enjoy.
- We camp, ride Razor's four-wheelers.
- Camp, hike, go to mountain lakes.
- Camping, hiking, climbing, riding bikes.
- Snow board, I jet ski.
- Swim raft.
- Kayaking, the Boise River.
- We do it all.
- [Baratunde] Of course, there's one thing in Idaho that looms very large.
- Well, I enjoy this potato particularly.
- [Baratunde] Okay, yes, potatoes are a big deal- - Come here, come here, Dolly.
(upbeat dramatic music) - [Baratunde] But even bigger is the debate around the state's population boom, because for every Idaho old-timer I meet- - I was born and raised in Idaho, so 51 years.
- Been here my whole life.
- I've lived in Idaho just over 40 years.
- [Baratunde] There's a more recent arrival just around the corner.
- Since February.
- Since February.
- I'm move here next week.
- I am from Mexico for Guadalajara.
- I am from California, I'm from LA.
- [Baratunde] And even if Martin's all right with it, this influx of newcomers has some native Idahoans feeling uneasy.
- Even in the last three years, I've noticed just how dramatically the population has changed, how many people are coming, everything has really changed and I'm a small-town person, and it scares me a little bit.
(cricket chirping) - [Baratunde] So is all this change good or bad?
John Conti is a local filmmaker who shares his outdoor explorations on a popular YouTube channel.
- I know Idaho is known for potatoes and I know a lot of Idahoans are okay with that, I'm not.
It's such a rad place, man, I wanna show people how cool it is.
(leaves rustling) - [Baratunde] But if John thinks Idaho is a great place now, his first impressions were a little different.
- I moved to Idaho when I was 14 years old, from Mission Viejo, which is a suburb of LA, it's in Orange County, you probably know where it's at, and I didn't like it when I first got here.
- You didn't like it?
No, I mean- - You're wearing a shirt that says, "Idaho."
- I know, it's crazy, how much I've fallen in love with it since then, but when I got here, it trauma me, I'd never seen a place like this, growing up in Southern California.
- What d'you mean a place like this, what was new?
- I remember distinctly, being in my cousin's car, driving around the roads, and seeing cows in people's backyards, and I leaned to my cousin and I said, "Do people just have cows in their backyards here?"
And she burst out laughing.
(gentle music) - [Baratunde] The former California kid didn't really connect with his new home until his early 20s, when John began working as a cameraman for a local Boise news station.
It was seeing Idaho through the lens of a camera that gave him a new perspective.
- I picked up a camera and I got outside in Idaho and I started filming stuff, and gradually I got more into the outdoor scene here, and then I went, oh, this is why people love this place, and this is why I love this place.
And I fell in love with Idaho, and this place that was once a prison is now my playground.
(gentle music) - [Baratunde] John explores that playground on his YouTube channel, documenting his epic outdoor adventures around the state.
His videos have racked up hundreds of thousands of views, throwing a spotlight on a state that, until recently, has flown under the radar.
- Idaho is just one big park, and the landscapes of Idaho are so much different from different places.
I'm gonna just throw Arizona in there, it's all seems like the same landscape to me.
I'm sorry, Arizona, (Baratunde laughs) if you're really offended by this, but Idaho is so many different landscapes.
You can be in the mountains at 12,000 feet, like I'm gonna be tomorrow morning, and it's...
So the variety of outdoor activities in Idaho is really unique.
- [Baratunde] John seems to think that the best way for me to experience these rugged trails is on a mountain bike.
I've already ridden a horse, so why not another motor transit I can fall off of?
- You ready to do this?
- I am ready to do this.
- All right, I might have a hole in my front tire, so we better be quick.
- Okay, let's go fast.
- Let's go.
(chuckles) (gentle country music) - Keep going, keep going.
With true believers like John spreading the word, people have been taking notice, making Idaho one of the fastest growing states in the nation.
(gentle music) In 2020, COVID only accelerated the migration, and while the state's low cost of living and growing job market are part of the story, clearly the outdoors is the big attraction.
- I was at the gym the other day and I see this young up while they're in the corner, and they come over and they're like, are you John Conti?
And I'm like, yeah.
And they're like, we're from Illinois?
We saw your stuff online, and it inspired us to come out here to Idaho, and then we moved out here.
(gentle guitar music) - But the voices that are against growth are only getting louder.
The booming real estate market is pricing locals out of housing, and new development is transforming serene, natural areas like those we are riding in today, into Idaho's version of urban sprawl.
Can you paint a picture from me of the range of opinions there are here about that growth, I imagine, some people are really excited, some are the opposite of excited, what are you seeing?
- I think Idahoans are scared, I think they're scared of growth.
(gentle guitar music) It's something that has only been experienced here in the last 20 years, and you're starting to see a shifting landscape.
In the '70s, this was all cattle grazing.
All of a sudden, you start seeing houses pop up in the foothills and things like that, open spaces starting to shrink, you're seeing housing prices climb, and people are scared, but I just don't believe that growth is bad.
As human beings we should grow, as society we should grow, Idaho should grow, it just needs to grow the right way.
But you're not going to get that done by yelling, "Stop coming here," you're gonna get that done by actually being a positive voice for this community.
And I hope, if I do anything, that's the few videos I have online do.
- Senator John Conti, it's my pleasure.
- My name is John Conti and I approve this message.
- I'll be Senator when you're President.
I'll run for Senator Idaho.
- No, okay, usually a shared destruction, right?
(gentle music) In a state where you can find families that have ranched the same land for five generations, it makes perfect sense that change might be unwelcome by some, but I can't help feeling that both sides of the debate, longtime residents and new arrivals, probably have the same reasons for wanting to be here.
- We were on the trail this morning, the parking lot was full at 7:00 AM, and you go, don't all these people, don't they have jobs?
And I'm like, yeah, they're here before work, man, they're gonna take this bike ride and then they're gonna go to work, and that's part of people's day here.
A lawyer will go fishing in the river, and then go put his tie on and head to court.
I'm not afraid of people coming here or the growth, I wanna see it grow, and I wanna see grow with those kind of people that have the same values that make this state great, and that's this, that's this outdoor lifestyle.
As we congregate in these cities and we become so connected, it's important for us as a society to keep a healthy relationship with the outdoors.
I think that keeps you stable, that keeps you centered.
I feel it's made me a better person, I mean, that's weird to say, but I'm more patient at home, I feel like I understand what's important.
That's a process that I have with the outdoors, and I hope everyone finds their relationship.
- [Baratunde] Whether Idahoans agree with John or not, there's no doubt that the state has plenty of room to grow.
With just 22 people per square mile, Idaho is not exactly densely populated.
(soft music) And part of that spaciousness is the state's millions of acres of federally protected wilderness.
But accessing that vast back country requires something a little more powerful than a mountain bike.
That's where Lori McNichol comes into the picture.
(plane engine roaring) Nearly 40 years ago, she started flying visitors and residents in and out of Idaho's back country.
- Hey, how are you?
- You're like a gymnast, what's up?
- You landed this plane.
- Oh, man.
- I mean, that's your job, but it's still very impressive to me.
For Lori flying began with her first love, the great outdoors.
- I decided I needed to fly so that I could get into the best fishing spots, which are down on the river where nobody else could go.
So I did a motorcycle dirt bike rider.
So for this type of plane, almost the same thing, just playing around in the dirt, I just had to be careful with the wings around the trees.
- A dirt bike with wings.
- That's right.
- [Baratunde] So fishing got you in the sky.
- That's right.
(gentle music) (plane engine roaring) - [Baratunde] After a few years of taking fly fishing to the next level, she began offering aerial taxi services to hunters, hikers, and others flying in and out of Idaho's vast wilderness.
- A woman flying was an anomaly.
Clients would usually come out and think that I was the person who loaded the airplane, and they were like looking around for the pilot and then they would be like, oh, how many times have you flown into the back country?
And I have a not-so-nice sense of humorous sometimes, I say, "Well, let's see this time."
And the last time, there're two times.
(laughs) And then of course, we'd get a laugh out of that and take off and go.
(plane engine roaring) (gentle music) - [Baratunde] Much of Idaho's back country is too remote for road access, so short, narrow airstrips have always offered the only way in and out.
- Back in the land rush, everybody came out West to get their chunk of land.
There was no roads, no power lines, none of that.
So most people would put in an airstrip, chopping down trees, land, chop down a few more trees to make it longer.
So that's how that worked.
- [Baratunde] Needless to say, navigating this back country by air comes with its dangers, something that Lori has seen firsthand.
- Part of my job was to fly the sheriff into the back country, to the plane accident.
- I was like, that did not have to happen.
And then I began to recognize that there was really nothing out there put together to create a safety culture in the back country flying.
I said, "That's enough."
I had the experience of flying and seeing, and I wanted to be instrumental in giving the pilots a tool to save lives.
(gentle music) (plane engine roaring) - [Baratunde] In 1997, Lori and her partner launched a school to teach other pilots how to negotiate the challenges of Idaho's unique landscape.
- I decided to put together a school, (plane engine starting) teaching how to operate below the rim, confined area approaches, density altitude, all the things that are very different than just from point A to B.
- What is below the rim here?
'Cause I'm thinking basketball but you're not talking about basketball.
- I'm not talking about basketball.
- [Baratunde] Yeah.
(chuckles) - [Lori] Because we have these ridges, when we go, we drop into these gorgeous.
- Oh, so if we're talking a canyon here, this is the rim so you're flying below that.
- And why is that special?
- Because when we get below the rim, if there's an airstrip down by the river, it gets narrower and narrower and narrower, and you have to figure out how to position your airplane within the environment to get it in there.
(plane engine roaring) (plane tires screech) - [Baratunde] What do the people who fly in the back country have in common?
- It all starts with the passion of the plane, then it goes to being in the outdoors.
They come here to get off the grid, with family, with their dog, and the airplane is really the only way to get in there to your spot.
(plane engine roaring) - [Baratunde] Lori's offered to give me my first pilot lesson today, and while flying below the rim isn't on the first day syllabus, I do get to learn how to taxi a real life airplane.
(plane engine roaring) (gentle music) - That's it, and scoot right back.
There you go, okay, that's- - It's a way to do it, all right.
- From a pilot, right?
- Got in a plane.
- That's it.
(gentle music) And when you fly this airplane, this hand remains on the stick and this one is for the throttle.
This is your altimeter, air speed, RPM, pressure.
- Oh, it's tough.
(laughs) - There's no rear view mirrors on this thing.
- I know, I know.
- No side mirrors.
- Here I come, look you out.
(laughs) (plane door slams) - Clear.
(plane engine roaring) - Oh.
So go ahead, left, go forward, and then less throttle, 'cause we're just gonna walk it.
- Ah, okay.
- There, oh yeah.
- Straighten out, find that line again.
- [Lori] Yeah, if you hit anything, the insurance cover will cover.
(Lori and Baratunde laughs) (plane engine roaring) I was gonna have you do a 180 in front of the camera, and go ahead and kick that left break again.
(plane engine roaring) There you go.
- (laughing) Yeah.
- There you go.
Oh, my God, now you gotta stop, you can all the way around if you want.
(instrumental music) - It was the most exciting, parking-lot driving lesson I've ever had in my life.
It gave me a sense of respect for what a back country pilot has to go through to be able to make it in and out.
to fly above and below the rim.
- Yes, yes.
(laughs) (hands clap) - That was really cool, for not flying, I felt like I really operated a plane.
- It's the hard part, it's the hard part of this flying.
- Oh, that's the hard part?
- Yeah, the rest of it's easy, (gentle guitar music) it's the hard part.
(plane engine roaring) - [Baratunde] Lori's being modest here, her skill and experience only make flying look easy, and she's having an impact by making it easier to enjoy one of America's last, truly wild places, and do it safely.
(gentle music) What goes through your head when you're flying above the back country?
- You know how your head rattles around, and you got all this noise in your brain?
Well guess what?
Take that airplane, drop below the rim into that drainage, and everything else goes away, everything.
It really is a pristine wilderness that we love, and the largest one in the US, what more could we ask for?
This is our public land, it is such a special jewel.
- [Baratunde] Idaho really is a jewel, it's nickname is the Gem State, in part because these mountains are chalk full of gemstones, like Opal, Jade and Topaz, (birds chirping) but the true value that Lori's talking about is the way nature puts us in touch with our play in the world.
(birds chirping) It's the unique ability of the outdoors to offer connection that inspired Liz Urban when she first moved to Boise 10 years ago.
A trained biologist with a passion for nature education, she was drawn to a group of people who lacked connection to the place they now called home, Boise's large refugee population.
- When I moved to Boise, I was actually a little surprised at the level of diversity we had here of just a lot of culture.
- Yeah, not the marketing campaign for Boise most of us have experienced.
(laughs) (gentle music) (car engine roaring) - [Baratunde] With a population that's almost 90% White, diversity isn't the first word that comes to mind when I think of Boise, (gentle guitar music) but Idaho also has one of the country's highest refugee settlement rates, with over 19,000 refugees arriving since 1980.
Still, assimilation to this beautiful, but strange land is difficult, especially for young people, that's why Liz founded the New Roots Program.
What's the goal of the program for the students, what d'you want them to get out of it?
- I came to this really wanting to expose kids to nature and just learn about science and share that passion that I have.
I learn about birds and bugs and plants and things, but the value really is to build that sense of safety, and security and understanding of our place, and the community-building aspect, between students, between the mentors, and between our partners too.
- Hey, What's up, New Roots?
- Time to go on this hike.
- We'll find out.
(group laughs) A sense of safety and security, that's a real need for teenagers like these whose past lives have all offer little of either.
- Hi, my name's Chantel, I was born in Uganda.
- Hello, my name's Bachen, I'm from Zambia.
- My name's Thamini, I'm from Tanzania, my friends call me Dogo or Mini or Dogo-Mini, yeah.
- That's way too many nicknames.
(group laughing) (upbeat music) Through education and exploration, the two-week program forges new connections between these kids and the natural world around them.
(group chattering) (girls laughing) It also builds community among students from vastly different backgrounds.
Tenei was born in a refugee camp in Thailand, after his parents were driven out of Myanmar.
He settled in Boise with his family, eight years ago.
When you first arrived here, did you have a sense of community or friends, did you know anybody when you got here?
- No, when I first came here the first two years, I stayed home, but then I joined, next thing I know, I made so many friends.
(upbeat music) - [Liz] Hey, what direction do y'all think North is?
Let's get our compasses out.
(group chattering) How's it going, Yusuf?
- We got kids from all over the world, and New Roots' mostly about working as a team, it's never by yourself.
So when you work as a team, you get to know each other better than you see them just walking in the road.
That's one of the reason I like about New Roots, you get to meet people that you never expect to meet.
What is that, the one thing we learn?
Never eat soggy waffle.
- Eat soggy waffle.
(Baratunde laughing) - North East, South West.
- Yes, you get it.
- That's brilliant great.
- It's great.
- [Tenei] You see the view out there, bro?
- Yeah, I see it.
- What d'you see?
Why d'you think there's less tree over that side?
- 'Cause it's so cold.
- No water?
- Yeah, there's not water, but- - This year, Tenei graduated from student to councilor.
- Yeah, there's less trees over there 'cause- - How does it feel to transition from the students side, the camper side, to the counselor side.
- I feel like getting old, but it feels great though.
- (laughs) You said you feel like getting old.
- Getting old already, you know?
Yeah, but- - You're talking to a person who's much older than you, be careful with that.
- That is true, but you still look young, so it's okay, yeah.
- Oh thank you, thank you, it's very... You know the right things to say!
- Yeah, of course.
(Baratunde laughs) (upbeat music) (group chattering) - That's the dragon butterfly.
- That's the dragon fly.
- I see one.
- Over there.
(gentle music) - [Tenei] Every kid here have a different story in there life.
- Yeah, yeah.
- I know, there's some people out there that went through tougher life than me, and still going to tougher life than me.
So that's why I like show that this happiness out there, can't be sad they're staying home.
There's a lot of adventure, it's the best thing, and you get to see the things you never expect to see.
We've done a lot and now I'm proud of it, as in, I'm proud of being New Roots Camp.
- I'm proud of you, man, you got me very inspired, thank you.
- Yeah, of course.
- Tenei reminds me that while New Roots help anchor a tree in place, they're also the stable foundation that allows it to grow to new heights.
- We really think being outdoors for them is important, and connecting with nature can be really therapeutic on a number of levels.
- The outdoors is offering something different?
- I think so, and all of us get to see new things every time we do it, so lots of value to be had.
(group chattering) - Access to nature has never been more important, xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment are on the rise in Idaho, like in many other parts of the country, but nature is open to all, despite our country of origin.
- Who knows what's a national forest mean?
- It means like this.
- Like that.
- Who owns a national forest?
- All of us.
- Everybody, right?
- The government.
- We all- - Nobody, and everybody.
- Yes, that's right, the Federal government manages the land, but it belongs to all of us.
- It's here and here.
- Do you feel like you belong here now in Boise and Idaho, do you feel like you belong in the United States?
- I feel like I belong in all over America, all over the world now, I feel like wherever I go, I feel it my house.
Like, right here, I feel like this is my land too.
This told me that, when I came, they like this parks is belonging to everyone, I feel like it's my house here.
(gentle music) (birds chirping) - So of all the things you've done in the outdoors, what are some of your favorite?
- My favorite is flowing down the river, fresh air, no stress in your mind, all you have to worry about is keeping your boat up.
It's the best feeling to have, is stress free, feeling that fresh, cool water hitting you, and just there's not a lot of noises, there's no car noises, just bird, nature noises.
It's the best feeling to have when you're out there.
- That sense of calm and peace of mind that nature can provide, is all of our birth ring, but sometimes, it can take the fresh eyes of a new arrival to truly see and fully your appreciate our shared outdoor spaces.
I've had the privilege of seeing this place from the perspective of the newest arrivals, and the thing that I can say is, sometimes we fear losing tradition, we fear what the new people might bring.
The irony is, some of the new people can bring the deepest appreciation for the oldest traditions, and our fear is misplaced.
They can help us preserve what we love the most.
(gentle music) Whether they just arrived yesterday, or have been here for generations, Idahoans seem united in a shared connection with nature.
But just as important as loving the outdoors is learning to love it responsibly.
(gentle music intensifies) Living responsibly with nature is a core value of the Shoshone-Bannock tribe.
Their deep understanding of the land has allowed them thrive in this wooded valley in central Idaho, for thousands of years.
(wood creaking) Sammy Matsaw and his wife, Jessica are members of the tribe.
Where are we right now?
- So we're on the south for of the San salmon River, sorta at the Northwestern extent to the Shoshone-Bannock lands, our homelands.
- How long have the Shoshone-Bannock been here?
- Since time immemorial?
(all laugh) - I have a feeling you said that before.
(gentle guitar music) The Shoshone-Bannock homelands lie in the Snake River plane of Southeastern Idaho.
(river water flowing) The river, and especially the salmon that swim in it, are central to tribal life and spirituality.
- The salmon are much older than we are, and they showed up, and we're still here because of them.
They saved us from extinction, and so we don't know any different from past, we just know that we were... Our stories are that these salmon are what saved us from dying.
- The Snake River has historically been one of the world's most prolific salmon habitats.
Each year, tens of thousands swim from the Pacific Ocean to their spawning grounds in the Sawtooth Valley.
For generations, these salmon were the tribe's largest food source, but in the 20th century, the Federal Government built a series of massive hydroelectric dams on the river.
Over time, this annual flood of fish dwindled to a trickle.
(water roaring) - They go from here to the ocean, they pass through eight dams.
- Eight dams?
- Eight hydrolytic dams.
- That's a gauntlet.
- It is a gauntlet, and in that passage, we're trying to understand how do they make it through there and increase their survivability.
(upbeat dramatic music) But if the dams were the first threat to the salmon survival, now they also face the dangers of global climate change.
We came here with the expectation that we would observe your family tradition, your tribal tradition, and I remember showing up in feeling an emotional low in the air, there was a sadness, what's different this year, and why are we not doing that?
- Yes, more traditionally, this is the beginning of the salmon run, this time of the year.
Temperatures would be snow and mountains still, chilly cold water would be walk through, cool breezes coming up the river, but today, in the last week, it's just been nothing but a hair dryer blown in our place.
And the water temperature is very warm and it's very concerning.
(birds chirping) We were out fishing yesterday, and we got two fish, all day working this stream, with about a crew of nine of us, with spears.
- And what would be a more normal amount of fish.
- 16 to 18 fish, maybe more, but we didn't have that yesterday.
The couple fish we caught, they're lethargic and they're already getting soft, so when you pick 'em up, they're not as firm, and so the situation is that we apologize, but we cannot take any of these salmon right now.
It's an ethical choice that we made, so we're putting a pause on this year, this year is a WRAP for us.
- Sacrificing their fishing season is just one way the tribe is working to alter the course of the salmon's fate.
Sammy combines tribal knowledge with degrees in ecology, conservation, genetics, and a PhD in water resources, to bring both traditional and cutting-edge expertise to bear on the problem of saving the salmon.
You were saying that the salmon helped save you from extinction, and I'm wondering, do you feel a duty to try to save them from extinction now?
- Oh yeah, that's the time we're in now, we say we're the salmon and the salmon is us, and so we're an extension of their knowledge, and we're also an extension of the things that they need in order to survive.
(gentle guitar music) - Key to this work is ensuring that tribal knowledge is preserved and passed down to the next generation.
In 2017, Sammy and Jessica founded an organization named River Newe, to facilitate the sharing of knowledge from elders to younger members of the tribe.
- We do want to continue to share that knowledge with our children, and so, even though we won't be harvesting salmon, we're going to be showing them how to read water and how to hold the spear, how to walk through the river, those things that are also very important.
- [Baratunde] Yeah.
- We're just gonna practice like you caught a fish, okay?
And so you're gonna hold onto the pole and I'm gonna pretend to be the fish.
And spear the fish, I'm gonna do like this.
- [Jessica] Hold it, hold it, hold it, and then you can pull it up the stream, pull it up the bank, go, go, two hands.
- There you go, good job.
- Nice works.
- You got it.
(water splashing) - We have to create a space for our kids to just know this land as their home.
They are building those connections to our homelands, and they'll know, if we keep fighting for our brother salmon, that, at some point, they're gonna be able to come back and they'll be fishing in healthy waters.
We're teaching them how to be fighters, we're teaching them how to take up space, and that's part of that survival.
- When you were just speaking, it was actually hard for me to know if you were talking about your children or the salmon.
- It's the same, (both laugh) it's the same to.
- [Baratunde] With the global climate crisis we face in the 21st century, the tribe's understanding of mother nature has never been more important.
- What we're trying to say is that our knowledge is the future, our knowledge is the future because it is tied to land.
If our knowledge is displaced from land, we've already seen the result of that experiment, we're living in it, and so the whole changing of the global climate has been a result of that.
And so how do we go forward in the 21st century, given that we know that science and technology has gotten us this far, as a human species, how can we use that in a different way to get us into the future, that lives more in tune with nature, that lives more in tune with our neighbors, that lives more in tune with indigenous people?
That's what we're saying about the 21st century indigenous person.
(gentle music) - It feels like we would all be wise to absorb the lessons that Sammy and Jessica know so well... That's fast.
Starting with just how to use a 10-foot long batch spear to catch a sockeye salmon.
- All right, so we're in a riffle habitat.
Riffle is this part where it's going over the rocks and it's a similar depth, and the water's moving faster, and so it has these waves to it.
And those waves are gonna work to your advantage because a fish can't really make you out.
So if you hold still, they might even swim towards you.
Usually, when you go for a fish too, you bring your arm up, and so you're going down, you're spearing down, not like this.
You're not playing pool.
(Baratunde laughs) - I'm like, why does it feel familiar?
- Yeah, you're trying to go down on the fish and get it with the hooks.
Oh, you're gonna let me hold this?
- Just a reminder that no actual fish will be harmed in the filming of this scene.
- See there, the fish coming up towards you, it's coming up, right in front of you.
Yep, jab, there you go.
- This takes some coordination.
- This is a really...
It doesn't feel that heavy, but it's kind of- - Balance?
- Yeah, it's so big that the balance often wobbles a little bit.
Standing in this river with the spears...
This is really good for the core.
I have to remind myself, this isn't just another Idaho outdoor adventure, it's the culmination of ages of tribal experience fishing these waters, and the ritual deeply connecting me to these people and this place.
For people who are seeing this and have a thought about Idaho, what are they gonna miss from the brochures and the packages that you think they should know about this moment?
- There are people out here, and they're coming out, and they're gonna come to Idaho.
We have a lot of public land available, thankfully.
But what we want them to see is to see us, to see the land, to take care of it.
- It doesn't matter where you go, acknowledging the land and the people, it's free, it's simple.
(gentle music) (water sloshing) - Come on, watch them.
- I'm watching, I'm looking.
- [Baratunde] In the US, We often look at nature as private property to be fenced off, or a resource to be exploited, or just a playground to enjoy, but Sammy and Jessica's viewpoint is a radical departure from that line to thinking.
For the Shoshone-Bannock, nature isn't something that's out there, it's something inside them, it's part of who they are as people.
- I never really think about like, oh, let's go outdoors, I think about, this is the time of season for us to do this thing, and so seasonal rounds, understanding where people were, where we need to be next.
So I like to talk about connection to place as like visiting family, I don't think about it as an idea of conquest, like, oh, I've gone down the river this many times, 'cause you wouldn't do that with relatives, you wouldn't say I visited my grandma 300 times in my life.
(Baratunde laughing) So it's like, oh, it's time to go see grandma.
I have a good connection with her, I feel like she loves me.
I would fight like hell to protect my loved ones, and so I think that's how I see that.
(gentle music) - Our teachings talk about keeping our hands off of our kids, that the land will teach them their lessons.
So if our kids want to run around barefoot across rocks and they stub their toe, the land taught 'em a lesson.
I didn't have to teach them, so then they say, "Oh, well, maybe I should put my sandals or my shoes on."
Yep, you should, I agree, and you wouldn't have hurt your toe.
- Co-parenting with the land.
- Yep, oh yeah.
- That's nice.
- Co-parenting with the land.
Once again, I'm getting a profound sense that for all the challenges we face, nature itself still has enormous power to change us and change the future.
It's one more way that mother nature offers connection in Idaho, connecting the past to the future, and uniting people of very different backgrounds with very different connections to nature, but the same understanding of why the great outdoors here are so great.
I came to Idaho with no connection to the place or the people, but thanks to mother nature, I leave with a deep appreciation for both.
I can feel the differences among the people, over politics or ideology, but what I also feel is the literal common ground they share, the sands, the rivers, the forest, the wildlife.
And everyone who lives here, whether it's been for thousands of years, or they just showed up, well, they appreciate those outdoors too.
So, Idaho, I came, I saw, I changed, thank you.
(gentle music) ♪ ♪