A Visitor’s View–Reflection from Chris Lemying’s Mom

Things to Remember from Teaching Drum Visit Falling Leaves Moon

– written by Tammy Day, mother of Chris Lemying, known at camp as Lemying.

-Walking through a cranberry bog
-Chris surprising me by walking behind me for a while on the trail before I realized he was there
-Chris with beard and beautiful smile, his welcome hug
-the autumn beauty of Wisconsin woods
-the lakes
-the Wigwams, as we came to a clearing there were 4 wigwams, small hearths (campfires), and children and
adults milling around. I felt like I was on a movie set….in another time period.
-the warmth of the other Seekers/clan members
-how dirty their clothes, hands and faces were
-How their eyes shown
-how tangled and unkempt their hair was, especially the children
-The children- So free, so independent to play and explore the woods from sun up to bedtime. There is a group of about 5-6 boys between the ages of six to ten. The spirits are unlike that of any children I’ve ever known. They have energy to be engaged, curious, creative, playful, and quite often helpful members of the clan all day. How different from most American children.

I have no memory of these boys ever seeking their parents (mostly mothers) attention. They would sometimes say, “Mom, have your seen my gloves, tomahawk, jacket.” But never, “I’m bored” or “Can you do something with me?”

I saw a group of adults that were available to easily offer a child a helping hand, a bit of conversation and acknowledgment. When work groups went out to dig out the new lean-to, any child that came along was allowed to work alongside the adults. Sunday a.m. the whole clan walked to the trailhead for the bi-weekly food drop. ALL of the children, even the 3 yr olds, joyously participated in carrying the food back to camp. No
complaints, no whining, no directions were given by the adults! It was amazing to watch beautiful, 3 yr old Julia and her parents. Julia was given the freedom to roam around
the hearth (3 first pit) areas. She would speak in very clear English—she is Swedish and also speaks Swedish.
Many people in camp are whittling different projects—adult and children. Saturday evening, Julia was also holding a knife and stick and was trying to whittle. The only direction from her father was, you must be still and not walk around with the knife. Early Sunday morning she was holding a dead mouse and petting it like a pet. She had the ability to roam around, interact with children and adults alike. At 3 years she had the self-direction
and confidence of a child 2 times her age. She was a delight to watch.

-There was a feast Thursday evening to celebrate the completion of digging up a peat bog. The peat will be used to insulate the winter lodges. As a guest I was asked to be the first served.  The menu was Basswood tree leaves and raspberry leaves,
kombocha squash, mixed cooked kale, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower, wild rice they had harvested weeks earlier, and Cisco fish. I chose the tail end half of the fish. (Chris choose the head and offered me one of his fish eyes…I declined.) Bear fat was drizzled over the whole bowl. Since I was new it was advised I only take 1 scoop of bear fat to start off with. Most adults were having between 4-7 scoops of bear fat each evening
meal…and wishing for more. They say the bear fat helps them keep warm and gives them energy. I did not really like the taste of the bear fat….an acquired taste I think. I was surprised by the amount of food everyone ate during the evening meals—then I learned how important this meal is.

-Before we started eating the entire clan -42 counting me and 3 support staff that were there for the feast, sat in a large oval, cross-legged, held hands and offered an Ojibwa prayer.
-Then guests, elders, mothers, men, children, and lastly the Guardians got to be served in that order. Chris and 6 other young adults are Guardians (also known as scouts).
-We all ate everything. The clan members even ate the fish spines after roasting them on stones in the fire.
-There is no drinking during the meals. It is believed this helps with digestion.
-Clan members drink directly with their mouths from the lake. I bought a filtered straw to drink the clear, crisp water from the lake.
-After everyone had their 1st serving of food, the members of the clan started telling everyone about their day (or sun). One by one, kids included, everyone listened respectfully as they stated what they had done that day and how they felt. If they needed support they asked for it. They could also make announcements. Ex: I had
a really good day. I woke early at first light, after my morning meal I worked on helping to dig out the new lean-to, I am feeling good about how people are coming together to work on the building projects. I have lost my knife, please be on the look-out for me. Aho (an Ojibwa word that means-“I have spoken”). The whole clan then replies, “Aho” which now means “I have heard” And it is the next person’s time to share.

-Everyone has their own bowl and spoon or chop sticks. People are encouraged to carve their own bowls. They get every speck of food and bear fat out of the bowls. After the meals the bowls are stored in tree boughs or on the top of the wood arbor—nothing was washed.

-There is a type of conifer tree here that is very important to the clan for its antiseptic properties. I do not remember the name of the tree. Pine needles are rubbed on hands after eliminating, boughs are used for bedding in wigwams for warmth, the boughs are also placed around the hearth for cleanliness and comfort, the trunks of
these trees have sap/pitch sacks in them that easily pop and the liquid runs out like an ointment to be applied to cuts and sores.

-When Chris greeted me he had a large amount of these tree boughs attached to a rope around his shoulder.These had been lovingly gathered to add to my bedding in the wigwam. This was very attentive and indicative of how he would tend to my every need during my whole visit.

-The Guardians camp is about a half mile away from the main camp. We walked out there after dinner with Clair. She is a sweet, quiet woman that shares a wigwam with Chris and Rob. Rob slept somewhere else during my stay giving me his spot. Being inside the wigwam was so cozy and comforting. One feels as if they are being held by Mother Earth.

-It turned cold the day I arrived to TD and sleeping warmly was difficult, even with the extra pine tree boughs Chris collected for me. I was uncomfortable and cold. The following sun (day) we put my ground cloth from my tent under my sleeping bag, more pine boughs, and a warm wool cape from Chris. I was warm the following 2 nights.
-We rose before sunrise, near first light, bundled up (First Chris went outside the wigwam and did 16 burpee exercises. He and another guardian are trying to add one a day to reach 100 burpee’s each morning). Chris showed me where his di’yai area (where to take a dump in the woods). Like Chris has written to us, the Ojibwa people think of this as a time to “give back” to the Mother. We walked a good distance down a path in the
woods, Chris showed me a couple landmarks, waved his arm and said, “This area here is mine. Mark you poop with a stick pointing straight up!”
-walking along this trail that morning I came within 4 feet of a porcupine on the trail. I wondered if I was about to be shot with quills. The porcupine looked at me and slowly moved off the trail.
-every morning there is a brief meeting around the hearth before breakfast. All of the adults would go around and state what they hoped to accomplish that day. If they wanted help they could ask for support. One couple would ask for someone to take their 3 yr old for a couple hours in the afternoon to let the parents do other things
at camp.
-after the morning meeting Chris and 3 other Guardians steal away into the forest for some hard physical training. They have decided amongst themselves that they want to do this training to get stronger. Chris has built an outdoor area for pull-ups, dips, and other exercises. They each did over 200 push-ups, then many other exercises.
-This first morning Chris and I took a small canoe down a canoe canal to the lake to get water. This canal was so cool. The black dirt walls were about 3
feet, there were poles about every 3 feet sticking up on both sides so one can reach and pull themselves and the canoe out to the water. One of the times I felt like I had stepped back in time. The wind was howling and cold, the water was choppy so we quickly got out water and went back to shore. This was one of my favorite parts of
my visit. Chris was so confident and capable.

…more soon!


Lodges–Part 2

Here are some pictures from the new Wabanong wigwam. First the frame went up, which is a lot of work to get saplings and spruce root to join together happily.

Lodge Building – Part 1

The Seekers who stayed at Wabanong during Ricing Camp and Marsh Grass Camp had their own adventure building lodges this green season. Here is the construction (just a few photos). They’ve since completed their lodge, and moved in just as the leaves were falling. More pictures to come!


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.













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.



Raspberry Moon — Waxing Gibbous Update

We are well into Raspberry Moon and the berries are in abundance. Yet we could also call this Busy Waters Moon, as it’s peak fishing time and the fish are biting. Here is a meaningful opportunity for the adult Seekers to make the connection between hunger and the hunt—to give up the protein and fruit the school provides for them and rely solely on their own efforts. They are already gathering all of their greens, so these would be their second and third steps toward Earth sufficiency.  It is always up to the Seekers to decide what their work will be, and letting go of that like-clockwork food drop has been difficult.

For almost a moon, inertia set in at camp around catching enough fish to live on, so they couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity. Many wanted to go for it, yet others did not.  Several of the Seekers proved to the circle that it was possible for fish to meet their protein needs, but still the whole circle could not come to agreement. Those who wanted to experience the hunger of the hunt felt victimized—stifled in their efforts to live in connection with the means and ends of their existence. Others felt pressured to do what they weren’t yet ready to do.  Reactivity and inertia became entrenched: they could no longer see all of their options and feel empowered.

Similar conflict arose around food that was going missing. A few of the children had developed a habit of stealing fruit, and no one was speaking up about it. A couple of parents wanted to protect their children by working with them privately or waiting to see where the issue went. Everyone agreed that punishment was not an option. Some felt that natural consequences should result from their behavior—but what consequences? Again, the circle was at a standstill.

Inertia had also set in across the lake. The Rainbows had spent nearly two moons away from the clan, and they were slowly getting closer to approaching their situation in a different light. One of the mothers put it like this: “I can be content and happy anywhere I am. Sometimes I don’t have a choice about who I’m with and what issues come up, and I need to realize that it doesn’t matter where I am.”

It took several quarter moons and a lot of contemplation and Truthspeaking for this circle to move through these issues together. Just a few suns ago, the Rainbows decided to move back to Waabanong and continue their efforts toward clan living. A quarter moon ago, 19 adults have decided to give up fruit and gather berries instead; and 18 have given up their share of the protein that the school provides. They are relying solely on the circle’s fishing, frogging, and insect-gathering efforts. The children continue to receive full food drops.

The issues that have come up for a circle are not anomalies—-they are a natural part of the wilderness immersion process. Each year, Seekers face similar thresholds and break through them—we all do when facing new experiences. There are four typical thresholds: the first three are personal, having to do with what we bring into the wilderness with us, and the last is cultural. The first one is missing the distractions from our psychological issues, and it typically looms within the first few suns. If we get through that, physical comfort threshold awaits, usually at around a quarter moon. Assuming we make it through that one by coming to peace with our demons and finding adequate shelter and comfort, the third threshold will loom at around the end of the first moon. It’s about balance: knowing that the sun will shine again even if it’s raining, and that it’s possible to stay warm even if the fire won’t start, and that the fish will bite again even if they aren’t today. There are ups-and-down cycles in nature, and when we can not only accept that but immerse ourselves in the cycles, we’ll find that we can be as comfortable in the wilderness as any place else.

The fourth threshold, however—the one many of them are now experiencing—is about other people. As social beings, we rely on our network of relationships for growth, as well as a sense of purpose and belonging.  We come from a culture of “I, me, mine,” and it takes about three moons in the wilderness to recognize this kind of existence as a sham. We defined ourselves by our egos and didn’t have to think about our clan in relation to our own survival. In the wilderness, it’s an undeniable truth. Getting through ego centeredness and recognizing our interdependence, our oneness with everyone around us, is the final threshold—the one we walk through continuously as we grow in circle consciousness.

While the Seekers have been wrestling with some of these issues, they have also begun hide tanning. They have been given the overview of the Ojibwe method of hide tanning, and they are gathering materials for scrapers, beaming logs, stretching racks, and paddles. Hide tanning is another opportunity for Seekers to complete a circle of connection in their life on this particular land, as they harvest skins from the animals that live here and transform them into soft, durable clothing with their own hands.


Part of the sustenance the Seekers have been gathering and growing into is found in each other. This is part of the transition through the fourth threshold. Women have been gathering regularly for women’s circles at the moonlodge, and they have been supporting each other to take solo time at the lodge. We’ll close this update with a small sharing from Dakota, who wrote it while during one of her times alone in the moonlodge. In many ways, entering and walking through thresholds is very much a little death for parts of us that hold on to beliefs about who we are. Insights like hers can be very valuable for a circle at times like these.

From a moontime vision quest halfway through Fiddlehead Moon:

There is a moon lodge here where women may stay during their moontimes if they wish. The tradition of separating women at this time is one that is generally misunderstood and often feared in the modern world. I, in my ignorance, considered it some patriarchal, fear-based rite probably instituted somehow by religious colonialists.

In my first moontime here I felt called to fast (food and water) for 4 suns at the moonlodge. It became immediately apparent how confused I had been. The bleeding time for a woman can be filled with powerful spiritual connection and insight—if space is allowed for it.

 For a woman the moontime is the dying time—

The giving time

Of giving up the possibility of a child

Often coming at the dead moon

That is why we hold such power

In our moontime

We are the keepers of

This cyclical rhythm

Embracing this balance of life and death

Within our bodies

Our culture sees living and dying

            as opposites

They are not opposed

One cannot exist without the other

They are two sides of the same coin

            and that coin is change

Life is the receiving

            death is the giving

Life is the inbreath

            death is the outbreath

We die every moment that we live

            and we live through our ‘death’

Enlightenment comes through awareness of this.

Blueberry Moon – Waning Crescent Update

It is the height of the Green Season and the Seekers are beginning to gather blueberries and raspberries, the first of our many native fruits to ripen. Along with gathering all of their greens and some fruit, several Seekers are getting good at fishing. One caught 40 fish before breakfast, which provided her clanmates with a tasty meal that day. Ant hunting is also going well, particularly with Rose, who has a trapline that includes a number of anthills. She comes back to camp with quite the quantity of sweet-tasting larvae. They’re high in fat and very nourishing. In our Insect Workshop, the Seekers learned that ants like to bring their larvae up near the surface to gather warmth. All that’s needed to gather them is to lay a thin piece of bark on top of an anthill, and the ants will bring their larvae up under it. Then come by every few suns, lift the bark, and scoop up the larvae.

Cedar and Wolfgang pose as trees in our Lostproofing workshop.

We hope all of you had a good time reading Alex’s story of getting back to Nishnajida from his Dead Moon Visit. He ended up walking an extra five miles that day, and made it back to camp just before dark. Several other people have gotten lost while out gathering and exploring, but none as long as Alex. Their stories kicked off the Lostproofing Workshop, giving us some real-life examples to work with. Everyone’s attention was riveted, as there is not a person who doesn’t have some fear of getting lost. We shared methods of direction finding without map and compass, and which did not rely on the sun—which is actually not very reliable if clouds move in.

Lost Proofing Workshop

Seekers pose as trees to aid in our Lostproofing Workshop.

They learn how trees, streams, hillsides, ground vegetation, wind direction, and several other natural features tell direction. Equally as important, they learned how to stay calm centered, and aware when you are lost, and to trust in with the Earth, rather than what your head, is telling you.



Meetings happen regularly at camp–it’s important to make sure communication skills are a focus.

We also had two workshop on Truthspeaking. Talking circles and meetings have been happening regularly at camp, focusing mainly on parenting styles and food/foraging topics. Many were concerned about these meetings often dragging out and being nonproductive. To improve communication and conflict resolution skills, we devoted the first Truthspeaking workshop to learning how to separate feelings from thoughts. An example we used was, “I’m angry because there weren’t any nuts left for me.” That is not a clear statement because it will not necessarily meet the needs of the speaker. She might receive empathy in response to her anger, yet the issue remains unresolved. Someone might rescue her by giving her nuts, and again the core issue remains unresolved. Neither of these approaches addresses the core issue, which could be fear, a sense of rejection, or even guilt for not letting her needs be known before she left. Nor do the approaches help the person to help herself. Instead, she could be learning to use anger to get her needs met. Additionally, her disempowerment sets the stage for the clan taking action without being informed of her needs.

Another approach would be for her to separate her feelings from the issue at hand, and to address both separately. She could say, “I’m angry. I don’t have any nuts to eat—it seems there were none left for me. Now I’m hungry; does anyone know where my nuts are?” She has expressed her feelings first, and then she addressed the issue by asking directly for help. This small but remarkable shift in expression helped her take responsibility for her feelings rather than blaming them on others and triggering reactiveness, which often gets in the way of getting needs met. Now, without emotions creating distance between her and the clan, they can together work on the issue.


Crafting, truthspeaking, truthlistening.

The second Truthspeaking workshop was dedicated to learning how to communicate in meetings. Listening, the first item on the agenda, is a key component to creating circle consciousness during meetings. When everyone is able to listen from the heart, one person can speak and each and every person hears it for what it is. The person’s spoken awareness is everyone’s awareness.  When we are not able to listen, we continually need to be told, and the speaker feels a continual need to repeat himself. This often leads to frustration, entrenchment, and the taking of sides.

The second agenda item was on how to speak so that I will be heard. When I am clear, succinct, and straightforward, I only need to speak once and my message is received.

The kids just want to play.

The Truthspeaking workshops were effective—meetings are gradually becoming shorter, less divisive, and more productive. Yet one issue persisted: the presence of toddlers, who were disruptive to the meeting because they were not getting their needs met by adults who could not be present for them. One child in particular was persistent in going around the circle trying to get attention. First you try to initiate play by teasing the adults with a stick; and when that didn’t work, he resorted to taking things from people and walking away with them.

Several adults grew frustrated and reacted in ways that frustrated the child as well. He resorted to whining and tantrums, and after several meetings of this, the issue became a meeting topic. We explored why children whine. “Take a look at him taking things from others,” said Tamarack, “why is he doing this?” Tamarack offered for the Seekers to think about games for a moment: what is the basis of most games (and ballgames are a good example) is to take something from one person and give it to someone else, or put it somewhere else. All this child wanted to do was play a typical game. So what’s left is to figure out how to create a win-win situation— the child playing a game and the adults having their meeting.

Hakar puts his nutshells away–children especially are connected to place.

At first the group decided to have someone take the child away from the hearth and play with him. It worked for a while, until he wanted to wander back and be closer to Mom. The circle then began to recognize that children, especially small children, are connected with place—their world is small. The group then decided to leave the hearth and have their meetings a little farther off. This left the little one and his playmates a place that is comfortable and familiar to them. It worked: we now have contented children and happy adults.


The Rainbow’s woodland home.



Many of you have asked about the Rainbows and their time away from the main camp. They left because they had a disagreement with a couple of people in the clan, and they wanted to take some time to reflect. They did this with the consent and support of their circle and the guides. They’re doing well in their temporary camp: the Guides spend time with them regularly and the children come back to the main camp at Wabanong every day to play. Additionally, the Rainbows’ camp is not terribly isolated—it’s close enough to share a canoe landing with the Guardian camp at Zhaawanong.

The Seekers are looking forward to next few suns, especially to the upcoming Weather Forecasting workshop and the beginning of hide tanning. With the next post you’ll hear more about their progress toward shared parenting and the evolution of the children’s culture. What a joy it is to watch them both blossom side-by-side!

Last of Turtle Egg Laying Moon

To all of you have written blog comments and well wishes to the Seekers, many have gotten a chance to read them finally—now is their Dead Moon Visit—and their next one is a moon from now. In this post, we’re going to explain a few of the traditions of the Wilderness Guide Program, including the Dead Moon Visit, to help everyone with family and friends out at camp to understand more about the Wilderness Guide Program’s unique aspects and how it works.

You may have already noticed that we use untypical words for the passage of time, like sun for day, quarter moon for a week, moon for the 29 day lunar cycle, along with quarter moon, meal time, and egg roast for shorter periods of time. From the moment the Seekers step foot in the forest, they begin the process of tuning into their environment. Discovering first-hand what it is to be a creature of the Earth, they look to her to keep track of time’s passing, rather than relying on the clock. They connect their inner concept of time directly to the environment they inhabit.  Even though there are no timepieces in the forest, not even man-made sundials, we still carry clocks in our heads.  To help support the transition to earth time, we use terms that reflect the new relationship. Tamarack’s recent blog post, Beyond Clock and Calendar, addresses the topic and discusses the benefits, along with offering examples.

The Dead Moon Visit is a Teaching Drum Wilderness Guide Program tradition that the Seekers are newly initiated into. Every new moon, which we call the dead moon because there is no moon to light the night sky, the Seekers will hike in to Nadmadewening , or Nad’mad, which is the main campus, to call family and friends, e-mail, and do research in the school library (there are no books at camp). They also stock up on supplies and necessary gear. Four groups will be coming in on successive suns, in order to give everyone adequate time on phone and computer. You can watch the moon, just as the Seekers do, to tell when they are coming in.

We’ve put up a new page on the blog called the Glossary of Terms, which includes many of the words used at camp that you may not be familiar with. You’ll find English terms used for communicating and time reckoning, as well as Ojibwe words the Seekers use as part of their immersion in the local ecosystem and culture. We’ll post some of their original terms as well. Language is fluid and ever evolving, so they are encouraged to come up with their own terms for units of time, the names of animals and plants, and even each other. In doing so, they develop a sense of ownership in their language and a relationship with what they name. Their communication takes on a new relevance, probably similar to the experience of those who first came to this land and constructed their language based on their growing connection with this special place on the Earth’s bosom.

Gigawaabamen! (Yep, you’ll  find it in the glossary.)


The Dead Moon (Beginning of Blueberry Moon)

Right now, amphibians of all kinds are out sunning themselves, singing, eating bugs, and generally having a grand time. They are an important part of the ecosystem here, helping to control insects and provide food for animals from snakes to bears, not to mention larger members of their own kind.  Although frogs may be small, the Seekers follow in the footsteps of the Natives by not snubbing their noses at them. Many Native peoples subsisted more on small animals such as frogs which were caught by women and children, than on large game. After a workshop on frog hunting—in fact, right after—the Seekers went out and put their new knowledge to practice. Taking their cues from Heron, a master frog stalker, they became proficient in no time. And they got a lesson in respectful hunting.

In the workshop, they were informed of poisonous species and given guidelines for determining when frogs can be gathered without interfering with their life cycles. The frog chorus at this time of year is unimaginably loud. Why? Because they are mating. The Seekers learned how to identify species who have already laid their eggs and can thus be collected, and how to identify those who have not yet reproduced. Frogs species breed in order through the season, from small to medium to large. If they’re calling, they’re mating—so leave them be. Additionally, the Seekers learned which species are rare and protected, and how to tell if a species has an adequate enough population to safely hunt them.

The Seekers came back with 25 frogs, and every single one of them was a female full of eggs, which they found out only after they had killed and cleaned them. It was a sad day, and a potent lesson, as frogs only live 1-2 turns of the seasons, and those 25 were given no chance to reproduce. The most potent lessons often come at a cost, and this one about disrupting a fragile ecosystem’s life cycle will not likely be forgotten anytime soon.

And then there are the lessons being learned from venturing outside of their social and emotional comfort zones. The Seekers are now moving from isolated nuclear-family units toward clan-based extended family. Even though this is what they have been looking for and desiring to create, it is a difficult transition to make. Different, often-conflicting parenting styles are tossed together, creating turmoil for parents and children alike. Right now we’re working with three fundamentally different parenting styles:

  1. The child acts out to manipulate the parents, and the parents placate the child so she’ll discontinue the behavior. This leaves the child in charge and the parents at her mercy. Parents end up feeling victimized, and children are left in control of situations they are not capable of managing.
  2. The parents give the child choices, all of which the parent has predetermined are acceptable. The child feels content and empowered by being part of the decision-making process. With the parents  guiding rather than imposing, the child is able to learn decision-making skills and the effects of choices.
  3. The parents control the child, often making decisions for the child without her input. The child usually grows passive and dependent upon the parent or develops a rebellious pattern.

All three of these styles can come into play in any parent-child relationship over the course of time. When one style dominates a parent-child relationship, it can be highly uncomfortable for both if another style is used with the child by other adults. Along with confusion, there can be defensiveness, anger, shame, and guilt.

However, the opportunity to live together sun after sun, coupled with a strong desire to work through parenting issues in order to create an open, clan-based relationship where parenting is shared, have moved some parents to make changes. They have gained tremendous insight , not to mention the relief and renewed energy they have for their relationships with their children. One couple with a 2½ year old were struggling with their child’s behavior during dinner. His bowl had broken and he had to use a smaller bowl. He rebelled every time, and the three of them struggled while the entire circle’s meal was disrupted.

With suggestions from a couple of the guides, they came to see that there were other options than what they had always done. They chose a number of things to do as a circle to help empower him. First, the most important thing was to switch the serving order so that the smaller children went directly after elders with their mothers. They also switched the mealtime to much earlier in the day, so that the small children are not so tired.  They gave him a bigger bowl, and it was decided that all children need to take a small amount of every dish served. Then, they could decide which pot they wanted more from. Empowering! He was given the option to walk from server to server and get his own portions, like everyone else does. He was given small servings, to encourage him to finish his bowl like everyone else before going for seconds.

There was an immediate change in his demeanor: he was happy to get his own food, and he sat and ate it with everyone else with none of the fuss. Mom felt instant relief and enjoyed watching her little one take care of himself.  When there are questions about what he chooses to feed himself, he is given acceptable options that encourage him to make his own decisions rather than having them made for him.

Now he even has his own little knife, and he delights in helping to scale fish with it. This family is an example of what’s possible—radical change can happen with just a few modifications that help our children thrive and at the same time lovingly embrace them. Empowering changes can be made anywhere at any time; children usually respond pretty quickly. In a clan situation such as ours, the parents can discuss and come to agreement on options, and then parent together. This is the clan way—working with one voice for the benefit of all involved.

Adults engage in the same patterns with each other as they do with their children, but they are often more subtle. We can look at our relationship with our children as a metaphor for how we treat ourselves and each other. How often do we not offer ourselves choices and back ourselves into corners without even realizing it? Even though we might see instant results with children, changes to treat ourselves with respect and follow through consistently with our children can take time and require continual effort. As they say, old habits die hard. Although the couple we just talked about has made a huge change around meals, the shift will have to sift through every area of their parenting. This takes the support of others, which is one of the beauties of clan living. And in return, the couple and their child are a shining example and inspiration for their entire circle.

Adding to the mix recently is Wilderness Guide Program graduate Annika, who is here to join the family yearlong for an entire moon. She is the first of a number of graduates who will be coming to help support the yearlong this turn of the seasons. We’re very much looking forward to other alumni coming to share their experience and passion with the Seekers who make up this very special clan at Nishnajida.