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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The 2021 Wild Words North art exhibit will draw on writing passages by Ryan Dickie and Wayne Sawchuk, highlighting their experiences in the “Serengeti of the North”, the Muskwa-Kechika.

Sawchuk discovered the Muskwa-Kechika region from his dad, and he has been connected with the region ever since.

“My dad always talked about it when I was a kid, it was always a famous place. It was an area where the outfitters hunted with 40 horse pack strings, giant grizzlies, caribou, moose, and mountains, it was the wild country,” says Sawchuk. “The First Nations guides from our area used to go up there, so we always had stories about this area when I was growing up.”

Sawchuk grew up in the logging industry, and he says it gave him perspective on the impact humans have on the land.

“When you come into a landscape that doesn’t have any human impact, you immediately see the difference. This is a valuable place, it’s still healthy, it’s still complex, it has all its species, and you can’t say that about the landscape where we’re living now. Our landscapes have been heavily impacted around here, and I think the M-K gives us one example of an area that isn’t, and from that perspective, it’s very valuable.”

While there are very few signs of humans in the area, Sawchuk says when you do find evidence, you get a sense of the history.

“We found the gas tank from the Bedaux expedition out on the Muskwa, a very iconic piece. From those small items, you get a sense of the bigger picture of history that unfolded on the landscape, and also from talking to the people who have experienced it themselves.”

One of the great gifts Sawchuk has is the ability to fuel the passion of the next generation of explorers and conservationists, And Ryan Dickie provides that outlet.

“We both share a love of the wild places and the wild landscape, and we do share a real reverence for the land in a lot of cases. Ryan is going to be a force in the future for sure, and if I can help with that, I’m most honoured to be able to assist him and tell him what I know about the landscape.”

With Sawchuk’s experience and Dickie’s Indigenous heritage, Sawchuck says they complement each other well.

“First Nations have so much history with the land. He has a long, thousands of years history with that landscape in his background, and I think my experience over my lifetime complements the long-term view that he brings to the M-K.”

When asked about choosing one location in the vast region that holds significance, Sawchuk tells the story of trusting the wildlife to find his way to the Upper Prophet River.

“If you read my book Crossing the Divide, there’s a section about how we escaped certain destruction on crossing the Rocky Mountain divide by following the trail of a herd of caribou across the mountains and over the divide. They basically saved our lives, and when we got down to the bottom, it was a sanctuary for me. I think that resonates with the idea of Dechinn that Ryan mentions, basically the idea of a sanctuary and a place that should be left intact for future generations.”

According to Sawchuk, the Muskwa-Kechika is known as North America’s number one hotspot for large mammals and biodiversity.

“It has more species, in greater abundance than anywhere else in North America, and that makes it a resource of international importance.”

Here is Wayne’s submission:

“Step out of the Gataga cabin summer or winter and listen for a moment. No motors intrude, no clicks and bangs and calls of humanity- we’re much too far from civilization for that. Then a raven, far off, cawing- and again. Ah, there’s wind in the trees and a snap from the fire in the stove. Listen harder- there’s a rhythmic thumping, steady and strong- it’s the beating of your heart.”

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