Ancestral Living Skills Apprenticeship

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Ancestral Living Skills Apprenticeship

The Ancestral Living Skills Apprenticeship Program is a nine-month, intensive wilderness program. It is designed to develop the inner spirit by learning to live in accordance with the laws of the natural world. The program focuses on imparting a wide range of skills from the ways of the past to the technology of the present. Through direct interaction with the many gifts of Mother Earth, students gain greater appreciation for themselves and their community.

What to Expect

This apprenticeship program is intended to foster a connection between students and the Earth, not by study alone, but by hands-on workshop and field experience guided by expert instructors. By doing so, students learn ways to integrate the skills into their modern daily lives – walking in both worlds.


Exploring the traditions of the Hunter, Gatherer and Caretaker of self and earth.

In the Ancestral Living Skills Apprenticeship program, students study the skills of the hunter, the gatherer, and the caretaker – increasing their understanding of the connectedness of each of these roles.

The Hunter

In the ways of the old, the hunter was an accepted integral weaver of the web of life. The hunter provided life to their community and their environment by harvesting animals out of necessity and the utmost respect. Students learn to blend and flow with the rhythms of nature through advanced study of nature awareness, tracking, honoring the animal, traditional fishing, and the skills of the camp. New skills are practiced on multiple field trips including turkey hunting, clamming, squidding, and dipping for smelt as as open seasons permit by the Washington Sate Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Students learn:

  • Survival strategy and nature awareness.
  • How to make fire using a variety of methods.
  • How to gather and purify water.
  • How to build a survival shelter.
  • How make and use hunting weapons (e.g., bows, arrows, atl atl).
  • Flintknapping, bone working and stone working.
  • Traditional hunting and fishing techniques.
  • Sign tracking.
  • How to skin and clean animals.
  • Traditional tanning of hides.
  • How to smoke fish.

The Gatherer

Wild plants can unlock the portal to good health and balance. Students are offered an in-depth look at how all beings are given life through the gifts of the plant nation. Students take multiple field trips for plant foraging while learning to identify, harvest, prepare, and incorporate wild plants into their daily lives. Aspects of ethnobotany including edible, medicinal, and utilitarian uses are taught through informative and useful hands-on workshops.

Students learn how to:

  • Identify, forage, gather and prepare edible plants.
  • Cook traditionally (e.g., steam pit, pit cooking, rock frying).
  • Dry and preserve wild foods.
  • Prepare cordage from natural materials such as leaves, bark, stalks, and sinew.
  • Weave fishing nets and cedar baskets.
  • Make glues from hide and pitch.

The Caretaker

The caretaker aspect of the program will be divided between caretaker of self and caretaker of the earth. The indigenous peoples relied upon these local species for survival. From them, we learn how to care for ourselves using local plants for nutrition and maintaining good health. Students make salves, tinctures, and herbal mixtures to start their own herbal first aid kits. Students learn how to care for the earth by practicing ethical harvesting methods. This skill ensures that our participation in the natural world leaves a positive legacy for generations to come.

Students learn:

  • How to identify and use medicinal plants.
  • How to prepare and administer herbal first aid (e.g., salves, balms, poultices).
  • Formulas to create healing herbal salves.

Please see Frequently Asked Questions for additional information.

Frank and Karen are enormously generous teachers, both with their time and with their energy. They hold no pretensions and are always willing to help and answer the myriad questions that come up in learning something new and exciting. Maybe more importantly, Frank and Karen carry between them over sixty years of teaching primitive skills. From those lifetimes of knowledge and skill, they have been able to develop in their students a remarkable confidence in learning to live with the Earth.
-Eric Apprenticeship Program ’09-’10
The apprenticeship program offered by Frank and Karen Sherwood at Earthwalk Northwest was a fascinating experience, encompassing skills and teachings from which I am still extracting meaningful impressions. I have been engrossed with the study of ancient history for most of my life, and the primitive techniques which Frank and Karen patiently explain and deftly demonstrate over the course of the apprenticeship have helped me bridge the gap between book-learning and actual, hands-on creation of the tools
of our primitive ancestors. Whether I was flaking obsidian or reverse-wrapping dogbane into cordage suitable for a dip net, the panoply of skills and proficiencies that Frank and Karen tender is amazingly broad. The only limit on learning at Earthwalk Northwest is in the time and energy the student puts into the experience.
-Alex Apprenticeship Program ’04-’05