Ancestral Skills

Much of what our students learn falls under the category of ancestral or primitive skills - fire starting, foraging, tracking, food preservation, skinning, building shelter, navigation. The skills are often presented in a way that conflates traditional with contemporary methods. For example, while they learn how to use a bow drill to light a friction fire, they are also using matches to light their fires on some days. When Silas finished drawing and shaping his bow, he strung it with artificial sinew because that is readily available. As the children age and show more interest in certain aspects of their schooling, they can choose where and when to go more in depth. Here are some recent projects to highlight their growing basket of skills.

Drew picked up this fresh possom one morning on his way to school, and Silas took the opportunity to investigate anatomy as they removed, stretched, and scraped the skin.

Silas worked for many weeks on his bow. Kunsang was not as enthusiastic.

A hunter donated a deer skin to our program, and we have been freezing the head all winter so that we can brain tan the hide as the weather warms.

Drew demonstrated how to construct hickory bark baskets.

Knife sharpening and carving are always popular, especially with new students.

And of course there has been lots of fire building during the winter months.

Unfortunately, Kunsang had some trouble with the bow drill. Here's his explanation for why he couldn't get a fire started.

Editor's Note: Here's an interesting article from The Atlantic that details the merits of learning these various skills.