Primitive Living Skills Apprenticeship

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

The Earthwalk Northwest Apprenticeship Program is a year-long, intensive wilderness program designed to develop the inner spirit through learning to live in accordance with the laws of the natural world. The program is designed to teach a balance of skills from the ways of the past to the technology of the present. Students will study the skills of the hunter, the gatherer, and the caretaker, while developing an understanding of the connectedness of each of these roles. Students learn to appreciate themselves and their community through direct interaction with the many gifts of Mother Earth.

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. During this portion of the training, students will learn to blend and flow with the rhythms of nature through advanced study of nature awareness, tracking, honoring the animal, primitive fishing, and the skills of the camp. Projects will include harvesting materials to create a fish net, then using it to dip out local migratory fish. Through this process, we will be learning about the relationship between hunter, gatherer, and ultimately caretaker, as we create an important healing oil from these fish.

The Gatherer

Wild plants can unlock the portal to good health and balance. This aspect of the program will take an in-depth look at how all beings are given life through the gifts of the plant nation. Students will learn to identify, harvest, prepare, and incorporate wild plants into their daily lives through edible, medicinal, and utilitarian uses. Weekly plant studies will focus upon the vast gifts of one plant species. Students will create an herbarium collection to enhance their plant studies. For the term project, students will create a new wild plant recipe to share at our end-of-year Potlatch ceremony.

The Caretaker

The caretaker aspect of the program will be divided between caretaker of self and caretaker of the earth. Within caretaker of self, participants will learn the value of using local plants for nutrition and health maintenance. The indigenous peoples relied upon these local species for survival and we have learned many lessons from them. The medicinal aspect of both plant and animal species will also be explored. In addition, students make a variety of salves, tinctures, and herbal mixtures to start their own herbal first aid kits. In learning about the caretaker of earth, we will be learning ethical harvesting methods to ensure that our participation in the natural world leaves a positive legacy for generations to come.

A Unique Course of Study

The Apprenticeship Program is intended to foster a connection between students and the Earth, not by study alone, but by getting their hands dirty and practicing the skills. One important aspect of this is learning ways to integrate the skills into their modern daily lives- walking in both worlds. Students finish the program understanding and experiencing not only primitive skills, but also modern applications such as fishing, hunting, knife sharpening and safety, skinning, cleaning, and butchering wild game, modern survival strategy, basic woodworking with hand tools, and integrating wild foods into their diet. Students have the opportunity to learn practical, usable skills, gaining the invaluable feelings of self-reliance and connection to the Earth.

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