Latta competes on Discovery Channel series

BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Former Reporter
11/21/2017 08:00 AM
Video Frame selected by Cherokee Phoenix
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee Nation citizen B.J. Latta discusses his role on the new Discovery Channel series “Bushcraft Build-off” while detailing what survival items he carries on his person at all times. Latta was a team leader on the show and challenged to build a shelter in the Aspen Grove forest of Utah in only seven days with three hand tools and the resources from the environment. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee Nation citizen B.J. Latta also teaches at a survivalist school owned by fellow CN citizen and friend Matt Tate. Latta said he never goes anywhere without a backpack full of items that might be used in a survivalist situation, including a knife, Mylar energy blanket, waterproof matches and pliers. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
WESTVILLE, Okla. – When expert bushcrafters were invited to square off against one another on the Discovery Channel’s new series “Bushcraft Build-off,” Cherokee Nation citizen B.J. Latta was featured among them.

“Back in March, I get a phone call and this lady calls me from Hollywood, California, and she says, ‘hey, we would like to interview you on Skype for a upcoming TV show. You got recommended by (Latta’s friend) Matt Tate.’ It was just crazy being interviewed, and of course, I didn’t think it was going to go anywhere because there’s so many guys who are way more talented,” Latta said.

Hosted by primitive skills expert Matt Graham, the show debuted Nov. 14 and takes survival to the next level by asking two teams of three bushcrafters to outdo one another in challenges meant to test ability and skill.

Latta led his team on the series premiere competing to build the best shelter during a seven-day span in Utah’s Aspen Grove forest. Each team was allowed three hand tools to accomplish the task while being graded by Graham in areas of creativity, sustainability, livability and protection.

“One tool a piece, per person and then we were just turned loose in the environment for seven days,” Latta said. “The part where I filmed was in the mountains of Utah, and we didn’t know what we were doing until we got off the plane, got out of the hotel room and they took us to the mountains. We were kind of kept in the dark, so the challenge was more real.”

In addition to being limited on tools, Latta faced challenges from an unfamiliar environment.

“I was totally out of my environment,” he said. “When you go to the mountains of Utah, there’s no cedar trees up there. There’s not one and that’s one of the main resources, especially for Native American people, here. Cedar trees are very life giving. We use that in everything in Cherokee culture, but when you get up there, there’s none.”

The location itself was also a factor.

“Even just working in the altitude was very tough for us because I’m not used to that, the oxygen levels,” Latta said. “There’s no high altitude here in Adair County. Your body’s different. You’re burning more calories. You’re exhausted more and in a survival situation, all that stuff really, really matters.”

In the premiere episode titled “Built to Survive,” Latta said Graham was quick to offer advice when things started to go sideways.

“I ran into a problem with my shelter,” he said. “I thought it out and thought, ‘man, my idea is not going to work. I need a bigger and better idea,’ and so I ask (Graham), ‘hey, what do you think about this?’ And so this guy, who is world renowned got to sit with me and I got to pick his brain, which is really, really cool.”

The experience also allowed Latta to spend more time with his father, who was on his team.

“To be able to spend that time with my dad, was probably the most rewarding,” he said. “Being on TV is going to be really cool, but that’s like third or fourth compared to spending 15 days with my dad.”

Despite seeing himself on the Discovery Channel, the Stilwell teacher remains humble.

“To know that maybe the world doesn’t see me as maybe successful on paper, but that’s because I’ve been a good steward at everything I’ve done and just worked hard like the Lord says, just showing up and doing your best can elevate you,” he said. “I didn’t put in an application to be on the Discovery Channel. They seen my work ethic working somewhere else and noticed me and asked me to come there.”

For more about “Bushcraft Build-off” or to watch Latta’s episode, visit www.discovery.com. A new episode is aired at 9 p.m. every Tuesday night.

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