‘I went out there to change the world’: Former Nevada County-raised woman lasts 73 days, runner-up on TV show ‘Alone’ | TheUnion.com

‘I went out there to change the world’: Former Nevada County-raised woman lasts 73 days, runner-up on TV show ‘Alone’


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It’s been months since The Union reported Woniya Thibeault, a Bear River High School graduate, made it onto the History Channel show “Alone.”

The show is a competition to see which of the 10 contestants can survive the longest in the wilderness.

Thibeault had been selected out of about 20,000 people to compete on the sixth season. This year, contestants had to find a way to survive the Arctic Circle.

On Thursday night, City Council, a Nevada City coffee shop, hosted a showing of the final episode of “Alone.” Thibeault, herself, was on hand to watch the program, and according to City Council’s Facebook page, “over 100 people” showed up to meet her and see the season finale.

“A lot of people went out there to win a million dollars, and I went out there to change the world.”— Woniya Thibeault

The patrons were wanting to know who became the show’s winner, and took home the grand prize of $500,000.

Thibeault lasted in the wilderness for 73 days, and came in second place.

Despite not winning the prize money, she said she reached her goal and maintained a reciprocal relationship with nature.

“It was so much about the experience and not so much about the competition,” she said.

Having finished the show, and the season coming to a close, Thibeault said she is working on many things: planning to teach ancestral skills around Nevada County, maintaining a YouTube channel of the same subject and working on her book, “Buckskin Revolution.”


Thibeault said she’s pleased with her experience on the show because she was able to enjoy it and appreciate the opportunity without getting distracted by the grand prize.

“The truth is that was one of my biggest strengths out there — that I didn’t care about winning,” she said.

Her experience in the Arctic Circle, she said, was difficult, especially considering the dearth of larger game around her, like fish, moose and rabbits. Still, Thibeault said she was able to build a durable, insulated home base and hunt for small critters.

Toward the end of her run, Thibeault became very thin, she said, which the show had been concerned about on day 40.

“I was starving,” she said. “I lost a tremendous amount of weight.” Things were reaching the point where she might incur long-term damage, she said. “I couldn’t sit on the ground comfortably because my hips were jutting out.”

Despite not having enough nutrition, Thibeault said she was enjoying her experience and could still maneuver heavy objects, and thus struggled to decide to go home.

“I was so deeply in touch with the land after so many weeks of being out there,” she said.

not an easy secret to keep

On the day of her 43rd birthday, she said she made it a gift to herself — prioritizing self-care and self-love — to leave the show, and maintain herself and her values above all else.

When she returned from her experience, most all of Thibeault’s friends didn’t know the television show’s results. It was hard, she said, to keep such information from others.

“I am the most transparent person,” she said, “I hate secrets; I don’t like it.”

After airing, Thibeault said she’s had hundreds of women reach out to her, offering support and telling her how inspirational she’s been. The wilderness enthusiast is proud of her work, and her enduringly positive mentality through the experience.

“A lot of people went out there to win a million dollars,” she said, “and I went out there to change the world.”

Thibeault said she’s looking to possibly expand her teaching by transfusing it through a larger institution. This comes at a time, she said, when an increasing number of people are interested in living in more natural environments.

“I’ve always wanted to have a school,” she said.

To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey, email scorey@theunion.com or call 530-477-4219.

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