Yellowknife's Chloe Dragon Smith is the first to receive Nature Canada's newest award for environmental leadership.
The Young Women for Nature Award, the first of its kind, honours Dragon Smith's leadership and dedication to engaging Canadians with nature.
"It feels pretty special," said Dragon Smith, currently a climate change specialist with Ecology North.
She was recognized for her involvement in the creation of the Nature Playbook with the Canadian Parks Council — a book that outlines seven strategies for connecting kids with nature, embracing technology as a "gateway" to get outside. She was hired by N.W.T. Parks last year to start a pilot project with children using the book.
"It looked like a lot of water fights, and a lot of rock painting," said Dragon Smith about the project in the territory.
Students were also paired up with musicians to write songs and perform them outdoors.
From a line of noteworthy women
Dragon Smith, a Métis of Chipewyan descent, says her mom and her "Setsuné" — or grandma in Chipewyan — were mentors and inspirations for her love for nature.
"For me, what comes to mind is the wonderful line of women that came before me and shaped who I am."
Growing up in the North, Dragon Smith says she was "one of those kind of wild child kids."
"Those years growing up connected with nature shaped who I am. Now, as a young adult, I fall back on that," she said, adding that she wants to share that happiness with others.
She says connecting with nature is important for the long term. "If people are connected, they're going to care about it and then conserve it."