‘I look at life differently now’: NAC student shares experience on reality show
Crystal Mitchell was one of six Indigenous Canadians to join cast in season 4 of ‘Merchants of the Wild’
Crystal Mitchell says she doesn’t take things for granted anymore after spending time out on the land as part of a reality TV show she joined in 2021.
Originally from Taloyoak, Mitchell is now based in Iqaluit where she attends the environmental and technology program at Nunavut Arctic College.
She was among six Indigenous Canadians to take part in the fourth season of Merchants of the Wild, a show that challenges participants to survive off the land in a remote location for up to 25 days.
Mitchell said she was selected after submitting an audition video in which she described where she was from and what her life was like.
She wanted to participate after coming across a post on social media and thinking “the show was cool.” However, not much prepared her for the time ahead.
The fourth season, which was filmed in the Mi’kmaq territory of Kespukwitk in Nova Scotia later that year, involved living off the land and away from other people entirely.
For Mitchell and the other participants, this meant no access to social media, sugar, or caffeine. It meant hunting and foraging for food themselves, not being able to take a proper shower or even wash their hands under a tap with soap.
She spent time out on the land with her family in Nunavut over the years, but had “never been that hungry before.”
“It was so difficult for me — being hungry and getting very low on energy and tired,” she recalled.
“It also happened so quickly — the first day, we were so busy and then the next day we were all so exhausted and especially hungry.”
Yet the experience was enriching for Mitchell, who said she built strong friendships with the other participants and learned a lot from Mi’kmaq elders who taught survival skills and history.
“I think what helped us a lot was sitting around the campfire and talking,” she said of the time.
“Say I needed somebody to help me more, I would just tell them and they’d be happy to do more.”
While she has since returned to Nunavut and is spending this summer in Taloyoak, Mitchell said she stays in touch with her fellow participants.
The group had a reunion in 2022 and she said she has loved the friendships she made through the show.
“We still talk to each other almost every day and sometimes we’ll fly and call each other and have a little reunion,” she said, “that’s how close we are.”
Looking back at the time, she said the experience helped her appreciate and respect her Inuit tradition, culture and history a lot more.
“I gained a lot of mental and physical toughness after being out on the land for 25 days,” Mitchell said.
“I feel like I never truly understood how tough my ancestors were until I lived off the land … and now I take less things for granted and appreciate what I have — simple things like food, running water.
“I look at life differently now.”
Season four of Merchants of the Wild began airing on Cottage Life TV Tuesday. It will also air on APTN later this year.