The Baker Twins, a.k.a. Canadian models Shannon and Shauna Baker, take the Winter Challenge to the Red Carpet.

7 Indigenous Artists, Activists and Allies Who Took the Icy Winter Challenge Plunge

David P. Ball

Native people have been taking an icy plunge the past couple of months, launching themselves into frigid oceans, glacial rivers and even snowbanks. Across North America they have caught the Winter Challenge bug, plunging into chilly waters—some for fun, some for a cause.

What began as simply a fun Facebook dare between friends in several British Columbia First Nations has gone viral, and a number of some of North America's most well-respected indigenous artists, activists and celebrities have gotten caught up in the fun.

For many, the Winter Challenge has gone beyond a simple friendly dare. Many have used their videos to demonstrate support for protecting the marine environment, particularly from oil and gas pipelines and tanker spills. Others have spoken about the deep spiritual roots of traditional water ceremonies in many indigenous cultures, and see it as a purifying and healing ritual.

RELATED: Winter Challenge, Cultural Appropriation and Shrinkage: Spring Is Here!

Not everyone posted their video as publicly as YouTube. Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo took the plunge and posted it on Facebook, then challenged actor Adam Beach, Wab Kinew and author Joseph Boyden. 

“I know you’re in southern california right now," Atleo said in challenging Beach, Salteaux, who most recently appeared in CBC's Arctic Air. Beach appears, shirtless, next to his pool, throws a bowl of ice cubes into the water and ... cut! See it here

Whatever your take on this quirky, viral rite of wintry passage, here are just a few of the better-known Winter Challenge participants.

The 1491s

Comedians Ryan Red Corn and Sterlin Harjo, of the celebrated Native comedy troupe the 1491s, took to the winter waters. Note that the video has been carefully censored to make it “safe for work.”

Fellow 1491s members Dallas Goldtooth and Frank Waln, based in Chicago, followed in their troupe-mates' soggy footsteps in Lake Michigan in this video:


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mblack's picture
Submitted by mblack on
Wait a minute, Adam Beach "took the plunge" last night on "Arctic Air". He was riding a snowmobile and the ice cracked, he gout out without too much trouble, but looked very blue, and the next day he clearly suffered from frostbite on his face. Yes, special effects, but I could feel the cold. I seem to recall he fell through the ice in a previous episode too, though maybe it was someone else. I remember thinking it might go the way of Jack London's "To Build a Fire". "Arctic Air" has been cancelled, the remaining episodes will air but it won't be back next year. "We want to differentiate ourselves from US TV". Huh? It's the one drama they have that isn't like US tv. What other shows fuss over how someone should be buried, traditionally or in the ways of European religion? Or, the "Caitlin" character, now learning to fly on the show, but last season fighting off the bad guys with wilderness skill and a bow and arrow. What a role model for teenagers to aspire to, or lust after. Michael