About Teaching Drum Outdoor School
Teaching Drum Outdoor School is located in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest of northern Wisconsin. Specifically, we are located in a 40-by-60-mile area of the Forest known as the Highland Lakes Plateau, which lies on the Eastern Continental Divide. It is also called the Headwaters because it is the fountainhead of the major rivers of northern Wisconsin and the adjacent Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Along with being the highest area in the upper Midwest, its beauty comes from being carpeted by dense forest and sprinkled with a profusion of glacial lakes. Learn more about Wisconsin’s Northwoods here.
Teaching Drum’s purpose is to bring back the craft, foraging, and cultural practices of our Native ancestors, to help us return to a balanced way of life. Learning is by immersion in the Life Way, in a wilderness setting with a small clan of people. This provides participants the opportunity to learn ancient skills and customs as they were actually practiced, and to live what is learned. Participants not only experience the wilderness as a learning environment, but also as their home, where they are able to imprint what they’ve learned by applying it to their daily lives.
Teaching Drum Outdoor School would not exist were it not for the wisdom and teachings of the indigenous peoples of this world, especially the Tribes of North America who have carried the knowledge of their ancestors at the great expense of their peoples, their communities, and their land. While knowledge regarding how to live in balance with all things was at one point available to us all through our own ancestral lines, it has since been forgotten by most, resulting in colonization, genocide, and systematic oppression that continues to this day. We believe that hope for Earth and all Her species rests in humanity’s ability to learn the wisdom that has been carried by indigenous peoples. Therefore, we are grateful to those who have kept this knowledge alive, and to those who have been willing to share it with us.
The Ojibwe are the traditional caretakers of this region. We are grateful to them for their willingness to share their language, skills, traditions, and how to tend and build a balanced relationship with the Earth and all who reside within Her. We are also grateful to the Tlingit, Oji-Cree, Mohawk, and Navajo Tribes for sharing their traditions. To learn about the Elders who taught Tamarack Song the indigenous ways, visit Tamarack Song’s website here.
Our mission is to function as a bridge to the wisdom and lifeway skills of our native ancestors (which we call the Old Way), that we may reconnect with our intrinsic selves and relearn how to live honorably and respectfully with each other and the Earth. To assist us, we guide and support our healing by fostering personal growth by truthspeaking, awareness and attunement, circle consciousness, inner guidance (dreams, intuition, ancestral memories), and other qualitative skills training.
The Drum is a universal musical instrument and the center of many tribal people’s lives. Joining the beats of their hearts with the rhythm of the Earth, the beat of the Drum calls them together to be of one voice, one heart. In this place of communion with the essential self, with clan, and with the Circle of Life, native peoples find the wisdom and guidance to walk their lives with honor and purpose. These teachings of the Drum are the foundation of Teaching Drum Outdoor School.
Tamarack Song founded the Teaching Drum Outdoor School in 1987, inspired by the directive he received on his Vision Quest to bring the time-honored ways of living in balance back to this time of profound imbalance. The school began as a summer operation, offering classes in edible and medicinal plants and week-long wilderness canoe trips, along with birch bark canoe building and Native-style running.
In 1989, Teaching Drum incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit school, acquired an 80 acre wilderness parcel on an undeveloped lake for its outdoor classroom, and began operating year-round. New offerings included an annual primitive skills rendezvous called the Old Way Gathering, hide tanning and shelter building courses, and wilderness retreats. By 1999, the primitive camp known as Nishnajida (Ojibwe for Camp Where the Old Way Returns) was well-established on the lakeshore preserve, which made it possible to begin the long-awaited year-long wilderness immersion program. In 2007, the Wild Moon, a month-long sister program, began at new preserve called Mashkodens (Ojibwe for Little Prairie), where adults and children come together to live for one month out in the wilds of the Northwoods.
Since then, we’ve added to our programs to include the training of the Guardian Archetype, a multifaceted person of hunter-gatherer cultures who served as scout and emissary, provider and protector, along with being a guide and inspiration for the young.