Wilderness Guide Program 

May 1st, 2017 – March 31st, 2018

Experiential learning is the cornerstone of this 11-month wilderness immersion experience.

“We made fire by friction. We sang and danced. We trapped and gathered. We fought and cried. We practiced crafts. Made leather and clothing baskets and bowls. Tools. We hiked and canoed, ran and swam. Napped. Lay gazing at the stars. We sat in a circle around hearth, told stories and jokes or sat silently absorbed in each other, food, fire, the lushness of ALL that is. We ate wholly. We gifted to the earth and she gifted us. We played and experimented. Always intensely. Everything was/is always intense. If life is a dance then I have just learnt some new moves.”

~ 2010 Graduate

“The year-long experience has been a step and a journey into a world I did not know existed. My world view about the natural world and myself were transformed and it took a lot of time and a full immersion into the clan-based native lifeway for that to happen. The…direct and sensory connection to the ever changing flows of the surrounding wilderness helped me to become so much more aware of myself and my non-human relations. I started to reawaken and realize that there was more to discover about myself.”

~ 2008 Graduate

Located in the heart of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest of Northern Wisconsin, participants live day-to-day in a native-modeled encampment, learning and practicing the essential qualitative skills of communication and cooperation, along with all the skills needed to build, maintain, and live in a North Woods native camp, including outdoor survival skills such as:

  • fire by friction
  • primitive cooking and nutrition
  • foraging, fishing, and trapping
  • lost proofing and orienteering
  • weather forecasting
  • wilderness first aid (using plants for wounds and medicine)
  • natural shelter and lodge building
  • canoeing
  • tanning hides and crafting, and much more…

Time is measured by location of the sun and moon, how long it takes to cook an egg on the fire, or paddle across the lake. Length is determined by finger, hand, and arm. Participants learn what it means to be Earth centered, and fully engaged with life rather than merely observing and dreaming.

The agenda for the day is based on the needs of the camp and the participants rather than by a teacher. The wilderness guides are there to support the camp and to work with individuals as needs arise.

The location is Nishnajida (Ojibwe for Camp Where the Old Ways Return), the school’s 80 acre preserve adjacent to the Headwaters Wilderness in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, located 6 miles from Nadmadewining (Ojibwe for Support Camp), our administrative center and support community.

The wilderness guides at Teaching Drum Outdoor School have over 74 years of combined experience of wilderness survival skills and personal development training. They have made it their life’s mission to help others reconnect with nature, to their deepest selves, and to find balance within. The guides are there as a resource for how to walk honorably and respectfully on the Earth.

While everyone is different and comes to this experience for their own reasons, many of our past participants had a yearning to reconnect with Nature and with themselves. Others wanted to learn outdoor survival skills and to see if they could rise to the challenge of living fully immersed in the wild for 11 months. Many come to the program wanting to learn the natural ways of their ancestors and of their wild and free kin.

“The Wilderness Guide Program provided me an opportunity to have a real intimacy with the rawness of Life. When you can drink and swim and run and sit and sing with the rhythm of your Mother Earth and all your Brothers & Sisters of this world… you realize Who You Are. Oh yeah, and you learn cool survival skills too!”

~ 2005 Graduate


No prior outdoor experience is required. The only admission requirement is to come honorably, with hunger (what we call an empty bowl), and an open heart.

Program Information

Date: May 1st, 2017 – March 31st, 2018

Location: Nishnajida (Ojibwe for Camp Where the Old Ways Return) is 80 acres of wilderness located in the heart of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. It is six miles from the main campus and support community we call Nadmadewining. The camp can be reached by canoe, by forest trails, or by dirt road to within a mile of the camp.

Tuition is $10,200 for each adult. Allow up to $1500 for incidental expenses such as craft supplies and canoe rental.

The Wilderness Guide Program is now open for applications. If you have an interest in the Wilderness Guide Program and have any questions, please send an email along with your name and phone number to Odemakwa (at) teachingdrum (dot) org. Or you can call the School at (715) 546-2944 and ask for Makwa or Tamarack.

Visit the Wilderness Guide Photo Gallery.

“For me the greatest gift of the Wilderness Guide Program was getting to know myself and the rest of life a lot better…Having the open and accepting surroundings, both human and non-human, helped me tremendously to be open and accepting of myself. To accept myself as I am and therefore able to accept others as they are…Living in the wilderness with minimal distractions and all the support needed to be able to do it, and to be able to do it for a whole turn of the seasons, is a unique and great gift to everyone that has the honor to experience it. The lessons from the WGP keep coming back to me. Some lessons have taken years to sink in. I feel immensely grateful for all that I was given during my year in the program.”

~ 2006 Graduate

Subscribe to Teaching Drum’s blog, Wilderness Life Chronicles, and read about the latest stories and experiences of the wilderness guides and the participants (Seekers) who are enrolled in Teaching Drum’s nature immersion programs.