Into the wild: Nevada County-raised woman to appear on 6th season of the History channel’s Alone
Where: The History channel
When: 10 p.m. on Thursdays
For some the wilderness is lonely. For others, it’s a haven for community.
Ever since she was young, Woniya Thibeault felt the natural world belonged in the latter category. The 1993 Bear River High School graduate, whose given name is Dawn, has developed primitive skills likely better than most.
Consequently, Thibeault was selected out of about 20,000 people last fall to compete on the sixth season of “Alone,” which will premiere June 6 on the History channel.
This season’s show includes 10 contestants trying to sustainably live at a random space near the Arctic Circle. The person to remain in the wild longest, hunting for food and constructing shelter, wins $500,000.
“The show is really focused on primitive survival,” said Quinn Fegan, a casting director for ITV America, the company producing “Alone.”
Fegan said each contestant is allowed 10 items and otherwise must figure out how to live in harsh conditions for an undefined period of time. As a prerequisite, competitors need to be able to hunt, trap, fish and live without modern conveniences.
Contestants can’t only be survivalists though, they also need to be able to find their lens, as they are alone, taping themselves the entire time they’re in the wilderness.
“You can be an amazing survival expert but if you can’t film yourself you don’t have the show,” said Thibeault.
Fegan said because of the constant danger, former contestants have seriously hurt themselves, lodging fish hooks in their hands, getting cut by axes and slipping. There are several medical professionals on staff ready to pull contestants before an injury turns fatal.
“We have a lot of safety protocols in place because there is a lot at risk,” said Fegan.
Former winners often spent money on things like primitive skill survival schools, and used the extra cash to support their families, said Fegan. She estimates the longest anyone lasted — before season 6 — to be 87 days.
Thibeault, who has tried to immerse herself in our ancestral world, was unsurprised she was selected to be on “Alone” after she was contacted by the show in the spring of 2018. The Nevada County native created “Buckskin Revolution,” the name of her website and upcoming book, and has spent much of her life teaching others to leverage the natural world and strengthen their primitive skills.
Growing up, Thibeault would read “Little House on the Prairie” (she said she can recite many passages from memory), and enjoyed creating things originally found in nature. Her nature-loving parents encouraged her exploration, and in undergrad school Thibeault studied biology only later to receive a master’s in environmental science.
“I feel like it wasn’t ever a choice,” she said. “I was obsessed with this stuff ever since I was a kid.”
In her 20s, Thibeault said she often felt the desire to drop out of the modern world, completely immersing herself in the natural world. However, she quickly came to realize our environment has been reconstructed for agriculture, industrialization and post-industrialization, leaving only the most extreme environments available for natural living.
“I don’t feel like I have the skills to disappear and do this 100%,” she said.
Additionally, Thibeault admits we’re a social species, thereby desiring comfort from others. As such, the adventurist compromised, giving up doing what she calls “normal jobs” and the idea of completely dropping out of society but, rather, blended the two worlds “where (she) can hold a connection to the wild” and also remain close to others, teaching ancestral skills.
Before doing the show last fall, Thibeault was on a trip in Los Padres National Forest, east of Big Sur. There, she said she had minimal technology without fire-starting equipment or a sleeping bag. When the opportunity came to do something a bit more extreme, she jumped at it.
“I was on that trip and had this sense of wanting to have this in my life again and wanting me to be at that level,” she said.
Although she wasn’t allowed to reveal too much information as to spoil season 6, Thibeault said she was located 70 kilometers south of the arctic circle, and enjoyed the experience.
“I had a wonderful time. It was like a dream come true,” she said, having not felt alone despite being in solitude.
“I felt really, really connected to the landscape — the plants and animals there.”
Thibeault said she gained a deeper sense of appreciation for all things. Re-entering society made her realize how entitled people often become.
She — like her family — is enthusiastic to watch the season, and share the results with everyone.
“They are all so excited to watch,” said Wendy Thibeault, Woniya’s mom, in reference to their larger family.
For Woniya Thibeault, she hopes everyone gets to experience the pre-industrial world in its fullest, without technological innovations that forever changed things.
“I would love for everyone to get to experience it at some point.”
Contact Sam Corey at 530-477-4219 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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