Leadership Voices

Of the Land: The Importance of Connecting with Nature

President Maggie Matear


One of the things I love about Selkirk College (among many!) is its setting in the beautiful West Kootenay, the traditional territory of the Sinixt, Syilx, Ktunaxa and Secwépemc peoples. We’re learning from them the importance of appreciating and recognizing our integral connections with the land, and how much a part of it we are.

On a canoe trip I took years ago on the Horton River, about three weeks in, a biologist in our party noted that we would all have largely become the Horton by then—the water in our bodies would mostly consist of the river water that we’d been drinking. That has always stayed with me—that we’re not just “on the land” but of the land. It makes a difference in how we see our actions toward it and how we come to understand the ways we benefit from it.

I think it’s pretty interesting to see how much Western research is emerging that supports Indigenous perspectives on this. People who are more connected with nature are usually happier in life, and less likely to experience anxiety and depression. Experiments have found that people exposed to natural environments (even urban nature settings, like parks) demonstrate better working memory, focus and creativity, and that even a few minutes of “nature therapy” can give us a boost of energy when we’re tired.

Leadership Voices Maggie Matear

Maggie and Marley on the Castlegar Campus trails, October 2023.

I work mostly out of the Castlegar Campus, located on a scenic point at the confluence of the Kootenay and Columbia rivers. I often come back here after work and on weekends to walk my dog along the trails around the college, especially the path beside the river. Over the past few months we’ve spent lots of afternoons just exploring the trails and watching the changes as summer moved into autumn and then winter. I think we’re pretty lucky that all of the Selkirk College campuses and learning centres—even the ones in downtown locations—have easy access to parks and trails, either right on campus or just a short walk away. What a great opportunity to do something good for ourselves and our mental health.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday, and that you have lots of chances to rest and recharge, whether indoors or out.

Take care,