Pictures! Margaret’s Feast, Ant Hunting, and Camp

Following are pictures from our Feast for Margaret, the elder of the clan who left the yearlong after her three month stay, pictures of Rose gathering ants for the clan, and some pictures from Nishnajida, the main camp where Seekers reside.













Update from the Rainbows

The Seekers are right now heading out to remote wilderness camps to harvest rice. We’re hoping to get a few updates from them very soon! This week we have some posts from the Rainbows and from Rose, and a few pictures in between. Here is an update from the Rainbows, and a few pictures from this past moon.

We have gotten lots of questions about why we left the clan, and when and how we would return. We did come back, and here is our truth and our voice:

We did not have problems with people. Someone at camp had to make a personal choice about their life. The Family Yearlong is a program to practice clan-living and co-parenting–we offered our way of support, but they did not want our help. We were not able to support their decision or the Family Yearlong, which was supporting this personal decision we did not agree with. We could not stand with our name behind this way, and so we left the clan.

We were told that we had to come back in order to stay in the program, and though we wanted to return to the clan, we wanted more time. We loved the time out alone in the woods as family.

Living in the clan is not easy for us. The group seems too big. We feel a lot of control, a lack of trust, pressure, and no freedom. It’s challenging us a lot to be with the clan. And we challenge the clan with our lifestyle. We are different in a lot of ways. And the question is if we will be able to be accepted as we are, and accept them, and be able to live together even though we are not the same. So we have a lot to learn and to grow.



One Moon in the Family Yearlong–Raspberry Moon

The following post is from Annika, a Seeker who completed the Wilderness Guide Program in 2010-2011.  She returned to support the family yearlong this year for an entire moon, and here is her story.

For many turns of the seasons, there was talk about a family yearlong happening, and I was very curious about the unfolding of living in a clan with young and old:

What do I learn from living around children? How do adults live with children in a clan way? Yet when I went through the yearlong experience two turns ago, it was not yet time for families. As a Wilderness Guide program alumnus, this turn I received an invitation to join in for part of the program.

The way to get water at Waabanong.

And so here I am, walking through the woods out to Wabanong, the East Camp on Woodbury Lake, to share life with the families for a moon. The woods are wet from the last rain, so I take pants and shirt off and get to feel the touch of wet plants on my body and skin and under my feet. Walking crosscountry gets me to sense wilderness from within. It launches the whole interior process, feeling lost, with the skies announcing rain, facing zagime (mosquito) and hunger from fasting, and foremost the confrontation with my feeling of aloneness and having to fully rely on and take care of myself, finally. Many memories come back up connected to the place: Northwoods‘ birdsong, the taste of Woodbury Lake‘s water, and the sight of lake and heaven, the smell of Gingaab needles as I move through the brush, seeing my old Dai-site that I had grown so familiar with. My heart is jumping with joy, feeling happiness, sadness, grace, touched, yearning, bliss.

Gio at the hearth.

I arrive in camp at the children‘s hearth, their own fireplace and center of everyday life, and get a shy greeting. A couple of feet further down in camp, I start entering the culture of 25 adults (at the time the Rainbows were staying in a different camp). I get my tent site in Zhaawanong, the Guardian Camp, and decide to get served last with the Guardians at mealtimes. Being acknowledged and supported as such, motivates me to walk the Guardian way, to be giving and let go of attachments, because it serves the clan. It feels meaningful to take less in scarcity so that someone can have more.

Bringing the food drop back.

Clan living is as diverse as all the people constituting the clan. Every sun is different. Gathering greens, parenting and co-parenting,  how to soothe a temper tantrum and being proactive, topic meetings, truthspeaking, sexuality, tracking, fishing, sweatlodge, hygiene, gathering bark from down basswood trees after the green season thunderstorms for shelter building and cordage.


Jeff and Ishi at the hearth.

Calling something stealing is a judgement, coming from a place of morality/belief, that blinds me from the truth. When food is being taken, we observe without shaming or interfering, so that we can really discover what‘s happening and why. As a guardian, I get into the place to watch three oranges I was going to have for breakfast being taken and eaten. I let go of having oranges for breakfast and become as a question: why is this child  doing that?

Several nights my dreams show me that I am acting, yet I feel disconnected, like it is not my thing that I am doing, I don‘t even know why I am doing that. I keep looking at the details, at my individual actions each sun. Chris, our in-camp-guide, supports me to step back and look with perspective: What did I come here for? I came here to learn clan life with families, parenting, from interacting with the children. (I also came here for raspberry picking and–if possible–healing.) Yet, with the children having their separate hearth ( a hearth is a center: cooking, eating and meeting spot of the camp), I have not taken the courage to step into their realm and picked up only rare glimpses of adult-child interactions. The idea is born to join the children‘s culture, including their food-drop, for a quarter moon.

I go spend time with the children, and by the end of that same sun, carefully and with a bit of anxiety ask them, if they‘d let me join their food-drop. After a moment of thought, they joyfully receive me in their circle and are excited about it. Throughout the following suns, I keep getting surprised about the trust and respect and openness they hold for me. This gives me the opportunity to really become part of their circle, because I‘m with them. I feel what they feel, I care for when our food gets cooked, I feel fear around my food possibly being stolen, feel resistance to being told… I appreciate a lot being a buddy and not a parent, not “having” to take responsibility for them or from them, by “having” to tell them what to do or not to do. When they play “Who dares to scratch the opening of a yellow-jacket nest and then run off,” I stop myself from telling them not to do it and simply observe. The thought behind my immersion in the children‘s culture is that I may not intervene, not be in my “responsible adult” role, but hang out with them and watch, so that I can learn and feel what it is to be a child from within the children’s culture.

Issues are approached with less fuss around them. When time comes, when something is necessary, they just go about and do it. No long discussions and planning needed. When it gets late for making dinner (adult cooking extends over many mealtimes), they say, “We‘ll just cook it in the pot, that goes quicker, and make a real big fire underneath.“ Within a mealtime we have it all done. Not only is life less complicated, it is also extremely fair.

Kids on their way for dinner.

“This morning we cooked squash and I could get a full bowl for the missing oranges.“

I‘m not here to judge for/between the kids who is right or wrong, even when they fight. They each have their special “weapons.” If one gets put down by words, another one fights back by physical strength, and another one might sneak and take some food. It all is part of balancing out, to have equality. I begin to see a web: When adults are not of one voice, when children get victimized, it comes out in such fighting for recognition amongst the kids. When a child gets blamed or controlled, he‘ll go get his power back in other ways.

On the second sun of being a kid, adults come to me with tasks like “Could you tell the kids to not…” and I could easily fall into that parental role I know well. I realize I am not here to parent or put into practice demands of control.”

A shortness of firewood.

If I‘d intervene, they‘d not share their world with me but may hide it. Sometimes, adults are stopping by on the go and say something, and I start perceiving some comments as seemingly random, out of our context, because we (the kids) are often very well aware of what we are doing. We know we are running short on firewood, yet the necessity to gather is not yet there, we can still prefer to go swimming. They also know the danger that comes from yellow-jackets. It is playing with fire, and a quarter moon later, clan knowledge grows with one of the boys getting stung by a hornet. The lesson is learned where and who to mess or not to mess with. When adults speak first in kids‘ matters, they take away the chance for “us” to figure it out.

Tipping canoes, catching frogs and mud-fighting. It is all about fun and games. Even cleaning up the hearth can feel like or be made into a game, and go really quick.

Hanging out with the kids also reflects my own needy or wounded inner children that wants to be heard, acknowledged, seen, respected, empowered, taken seriously, be self-responsible, and loved. If I learn to treat them in that way and meet their needs, I practice being respectful and loving towards these inner aspects of mine.

Towards the end of my stay, all strands seem to weave together into a beautiful web of life. I get to learn about everything I had come here for, and nature shows me how we‘re all related, how giving is receiving.



Hazelnut Camp — News from the Nutters

Throughout the turn of the seasons, Seekers will follow resources such as food or crafting materials at different locations and set up a new remote camp. This is the story from Hazelnut Camp, west of Wolf Lake.

An abundance to gather.

One quarter moon ago I was romping the woods alone for several suns–living on hazelnuts and berries, exploring light/dark traveling, awareness, dissolution and invisibility. Food was abundant and there was no quibbling over it. I was in my bliss.

However, I couldn’t possibly do justice to the bounty that was offered and I knew there were many in the clan who would welcome this opportunity. If I could get so much myself out of this walk-about, why not take half the clan with me?

Around the hearth.

This was the genesis of Hazelnut Camp. As of this sun we are ten: Dakota, Canto, Zander, Wolfgang, Rose, Chris, Scott, Rob, Fredolin and Claire. We are camping west of Wolf Lake and taking this window of plenty to be off the food support by Teaching Drum. [This means that all participants who are not at their minimum weight are allowed to subsist entirely on what they gather].




Each sun something new seems to show up at our dinner circle: grasshoppers, fish, frogs, grubs, ant larvae, many varieties of greens, many varieties of berries, snake, burdock root, trapped mouse, (thanks Chris for a great trapping workshop!) and, of course, a mountain of hazelnuts. We have mostly been enjoying (occasionally struggling) with smaller group dynamics. We hear that the same is true for the temporarily reduced clan back at Waabanong.

Some fish.

It is unknown how long we will persist with this experiment/vacation as people fluctuate between here and Waabanong. Perhaps it will meld into apple and wild rice camps.





It has been exciting, illuminating, and mind altering to experience sustenance and trust in this way–new to us “civilized” folk, but basic to life.



4 suns before the dead moon, Raspberry Moon

On Guidance

Following is a post from Dakota

In respect and gratitude I offer this:
The only real guidance we can offer to another (beyond the physical realm) is how to recognize
the voice of Spirit–our heartsong
This is all we can do…and it is enough.
If we hold opinion
and think we see the Truth
We are in danger of inhibiting that awareness
in those we wish to serve
The truth has infinite perspectives
No two of us share
exactly the same vision
and only our own voice will bring us home.
These many voices singing in harmony
are this person’s vision of circle-consciousness.



Da’i Walk

Following is a post from the Rainbows on going on a ritual walk as part of Da’i, honorably returning the gifts of life and nourishment back to the Earth Mother.

You want to come with me for a Da’i walk? Maybe the sun is shining while we take a walk to our Da’i spot and choose a place to leave our offering. The ground is dry–or wet from the night, or rain. So will be your toilet paper, maybe leaves, maybe moss.

While we walk we feel the wind–he is coming warm and gently from the south this sun. Birds are joining us all the way–singing beautiful songs. We crawl under a fallen tree–he must have fallen in the night–this plant. You feel his bark, smell the pitch, and think about life and death for a while.

A squirrel is making loud noise because you get too close to him while entering your Da’i area. Which tree will it be this sun? And where is the moss or the leaves? If you have all, just dig a hole–leaning on the log of the tree, and go. Meanwhile, an ant is near and close by you, and less than ten mosquitoes are trying to have a meal of you. Anyway, you enjoy everything that you can see while giving back to the earth. Never gets boring. You close over your hole, and you make your way back to camp.

How was it in civilization? Go five steps, open and close a door, sit down, go, done. The only interesting thing that might happen is who the hell took the last piece of toilet paper and leaves me in this trouble?

So maybe you give nature a try next time. Let’s invite the sun, or sometimes the moon and the stars, the rain, go over logs with naked feet and feel the earth while finding your tree.

A Gift of Slow Time

The following post is from the clan elder, Margaret, who has completed her time here at the Family Wilderness Guide Program this quarter moon and is returning to her home.

For many reasons this 3 month experience has been impressively challenging; in ways I had not even imagined. Among them were loss of structured time: schedules, calendars, making plans or even knowing what time it was. This created some vague, insecure sense of being nowhere. There were suns (days) that dragged. I had to deal with my thoughts of escape; of counting suns (days). Until I left I had to bring myself back to the present with all that was so new and different. I had to adjust to suns with little structure (after drinking water, peeing, and pooping). I could eat breakfast whenever. Usually there was nothing I had to do although plenty Icoulddo and that needed to be done. MEETINGS were the exception–very important to be at.

It seems so paradoxical that we deeply yearn for leisure time–less stress and demands on our lives–yet when it is possible, we struggle against it. And so, I have slowly been learning to move through the suns in a more spontaneous way; trusting my needs will be met; trusting that I will learn what I came for, and trusting that I don’t need to impress the clan with taking on any more tasks than I have energy or desire for.

One of the gifts I have given myself in slowing down is a quick meditative time at the evening sunset. Watching the sun sink behind trees and clouds. Often the sky is bathed in brilliant afterlight. Sometimes soft pastels. The lake is reflecting the beauty of it all. The loon might be calling out its plaintive wail. Or a great blue heron flaps by squaking like a prehistoric creature. I will remember how precious these timeless moments were. And hopefully create similar times of just being with the beauty of our natural world.

A Rainy Sun–How Things Can Change

Following is a post from Sabrina

Around dinner time, we are planning the following sun. There’s a group that wants to gather boughs to cover the ground in one of our lodges. Another group wants to start very early–with first light–to gather berries for the whole circle. Other people are planning to go out fishing and there is also a trip with some kids to have an adventure–berry picking and frog catching.

In the middle of the night I can hear some soft raindrops on the tent. Later, as I wake up around sunrise I’m totally surprised. Wow. There is a thunderstorm above us. It’s loud, and the rain comes down very hard. I can’t hear any other sounds–no bird, no voice, only the power of the water and wind, the sound of thunder.

I wonder how all of these trips and plans can happen. I feel no motivation to go out. Yet it feels nice, I like the weather change. I decide to stay and rest a bit more. It’s cozy in the tent surrounded by the storm.

After I slept a little longer, I stand up to pee. I take a look at the hearth to see if there are other people. It’s still raining and I hardly can hear anybody. There are two clanmates sitting and obviously waiting for others. I decide to go back into the tent and use the silence in camp to write some letters. Then I hear a howl–Oh, I forgot! This sun it’s a food drop day. Yeah! We need to gather people and go out to the trail to get our food for the next two suns.

This is the part that’s fun–I tried it out. Remove all your clothes, wear your shoes an then enjoy running naked (maybe with underwear) out to the car to get the food and bring it back to camp. The first time I saw this happen I thought, How crazy can people be? But, it makes sense. Your clothes do not get wet, we will be warmed by running and it’s a nice, energetic start to the sun.

Back with all the food, people start to make fire, drying firewood, and clothes, and warming up a bit.The plans are not fixed anymore. It’s flexibility now. It is so powerful to see how easily things can change ONLY by going with what comes. Living outside means exactly this. And it’s a great opportunity to experience this. This rain is part of our lifeway; we need him when he is coming. The berries will be double as big, I hear Fridolin and Wolfgang saying. Yeah, and all the fresh leaves! And the frogs, they won’t die. So we are sitting around the fire, roasting our nuts and eggs for breakfast, honoring the weather and setting out some pots to keep the rainwater for cooking and drinking.

Migwech–be flexible and enjoy.