Concluding the Guardian 11 Moon Training – Part 2

Guardian Yearlong blog post originally posted on 5/16/14


The Guardians began their exploration with the Listening skill. They said that by depending on each other and living together 24/7, they had learned how to truth-listen, how to be open and accepting and how to encourage and acknowledge one another.

Lety asked how these listening skills had helped them at camp this past year, how their skills had developed, and how they would use what they’ve learned once they are back in their communities. A few of the Trainees asked for clarification and expressed their understanding of the question.  Then Blondie laughed and said “Here’s a question on ‘listening’, which is rephrased several times, and there are three…four different understandings of the question. This is funny.”

Tamarack spoke, “listening goes beyond what we hear, I’m reminded of a story: A Seeker went from person to person asking ‘How do I listen?’ but was not satisfied with the responses. Somebody suggested posing this question to someone who’d been listening for a long time.  The Seeker found a revered Elder and asked ‘How do I listen?’ The Elder responded by pointing to the full moon.  The Seeker said: ‘Oh, I see you pointing. What does that mean?  How does that help me listen?’ And the Elder said: ‘You missed my point here. What I am doing is not the answer to your question. You’re focused on my connection with the moon. The listening is about the moon. It’s not what I’m saying or what I’m doing. That’s not listening. Your question is not listening.  Embrace the moon.’”

Tamarack continued: “communication involves heart to heart connection, words are symbols that we use in an effort to express this. But, if we focus on the symbols, we can get tripped up on the projections and patterns we associate with them. This distracts us from listening, just as it did the Seeker when he focused on the Elder’s finger instead of the Elder’s message.”

The Guardians then explored how they might interact with their families in a different way once they’re back home.  They realized that if they see their parents only as parents, they might only hear their parents’ words filtered through the projections they associate withparents.  Perhaps they will return to their families and hear their parents say something like “Oh, Johnny or Janie, I want you to go to college now. You’ve done your playing around.” If the Seeker focuses just on their parents’ words, they might think “My parents want me to do something. Do I want to do that or not?” This sets them up for a dichotomous “them against me” interpretation. However, if the Seeker is truthlistening, she/he is in a state of being, rather than a state of doing something with, for, or against someone else. Instead of hearing “I have a specific plan I want you to do,” they will hear “I love you honey.”

From their year-long experience, the Guardians learned that when we relate to one another on a heart level rather than from our egos and projections, we can listen more clearly. They  appreciated that by integrating this way of listening, this skill will allow them to truly serve their communities.

It was very important that listening came up as the first item on the list, because listening is at the core of most, if not all, soft and hard skills, as we’ll see in the following topics.

Concluding the 11 Moon Guardian Training

Guardian Yearlong blog post originally posted on 5/10/14

Guardian Training 2013/14 recap

At the end of each year-long we give daily emphasis to the topic of re-integration. This year we approached it by asking the Guardian trainees to compile a list of skills they had learned/honed during their year-long training. Between soft and hard skills*, they came up with a four page list!

*Hard skills, also known as quantitative skills, such as hide tanning, fire-by-friction, primitive cooking. Soft skills or qualitative skills, i.e. conflict resolution, self-knowing, relationships.

Skills are grouped for easier reading, yet you may notice that some fit in several categories.

March 17 to 24, 2014.  Reintegration

“We, the Guardian trainees, have learned much this turn of the seasons. Looking back at our experience we compiled this list of hard skills and soft skills, and some of them are both.”






Approaching and reading kill sites

Tracking: tracks and sign


Feather reading


Animal processing

Edible plant and insect foraging

Finding springs

Frog hunting

Gathering respectfully (offerings, etc…)

One-hand nut cracking

Plant identification

Primitive fishing

Recognizing edible, medicinal plants, and toxic look-alikes


Sharpening tools

Tool use and treatment

Trapping with deadfalls

Wild ricing


Caretaking of food


Chewing for optimal health


Fasting and internal spring cleansing

Jumping, crawling, flexibility, coordination

Keeping warm in subzero temperatures

Living with mosquito

Physical strength building


Primitive tooth care

Processing wild plants for food and medicine

Warm water drinking during freezing weather

Wilderness first aid and ongoing treatment of wounds

Wilderness hygiene in green and white seasons



Building Pack Frames


Crossing a river/building an impromptu bridge

Exploring river systems


Ideal camp locations


Night sky orienteering

Reading the landscape

Safe travel on ice

Tree climbing safety

Setting up camp

Shelter building

Snowshoe walking

Stealth training

Tarp location and set-up without using ropes or ties

Traveling as a group

Under-conifer lean-to

Wilderness awareness

Wilderness bed making

Native Lifeway:

Weather forecasting

Native walking and running

Primitive everyday living skills

Native dancing

Ojibwe language

Keeping track of time with sun and moon


Friction fire without metal tools

Making friction fire blindfolded or without tinder in wet, windy conditions

Tending fire (smokeless fire)

Primitive cooking

Wilderness comfort skills

Respectfully peeing and pooping in the woods

Feast and famine

How to burn hair

English (for non-English speakers)


All crafts executed with just three tools

Birch bark containers

Bowl making


Drum making

Fixing clothes/modifications and repairs



Making and using pitch glue

Splitting wood with wood wedges and rocks

Using bones and sinew

Wood qualities

Working with rawhide – getting to know the materials



Communication skills:

Accepting input


Coming out of head and into heart

Listening to heartvoice


Listening to longing needs


Non-verbal communication



Awareness skills:

Awareness – bringing oneself to awareness

Awareness of victim patterns and victimization

Being proactive

Celebrating making mistakes and learning from them


Fulfilling needs

Gaining perspective

Learning how to learn

Observation skills

Pattern breaking

Recognizing when we are sinking to least common denominator, taking the easy road

Understanding what it means to be alive, and to be human

Zen stories


Adaptability skills:

Aspiring to be our best

Being innovating

Being ok with being a fool



Faking it until we make it

Feeding our inner passion by challenging our comfort zones


Living on our frontier/staying sharp


Circle consciousness skills:

Archetype skills – aggressor, nurturer, and guardian

Being part of a group

Caretaking skills (of oneself and others)

Coming to one voice

Guardian role

Guiding skills

Organization skills

Relationship skills

Relationship with the land


Strategies for not falling into dysfunctional behavior

Sensory skills:






Stealth training

After receiving this list from the Guardian trainees, we reflected on the soft skills, one-by-one, looking for connection to their lives at camp…and with that connection, to their lives away from these wilds. Together, we explored the ways in which these skills would help the Guardians in serving their people and their communities—doing what they will be called to do.

Tracking Wolf – by Early Bird

Guardian Yearlong blog post originally posted on 3/22/14

After our last visit to the support center, we decided to follow Kimball Creek from Pine River Rd to the actual pine river. Since the snow is very deep in the river valleys and there are a lot of Alders we stuck to the forested areas. Kimball creek is heading N before it turns to the E. So we walked NE, thinking that we’ll hit the creek soon. So we did on the third day, exactly at our old camp, where Pine River and Kimball Creek met. Funny…

From there we followed the Pine River downstream until we hit Jones Dam RD. At a meeting with Tamarack, Lety and Makwa we got news  that there is a lot of wolf activity in the SE. A long hike lay ahead of us. Equipped with snow shoes and toboggan we walked for more than a quarter moon and crossed several creeks and roads. The toboggan was very helpful after we managed the initial difficulties, because the food is very heavy.

We reached the Popple River near MacArthur Pine Rd and started scouting for wolf activity. Due to the deep snows deer yard up in the cedar and hemlock swamps, the wolf follow them. Then finally: The first clear tracks! Some paw prints are bigger than my hand palm. Since the canines don’t have lantern poles here in the wilderness they use the piled up snow along the roads as a preferred marking site. ;-)

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We soon discovered the first kill site and with it a bunch of pee spots and scat piles, which show traces of high protein consumption and also bone fragments. We circled around the site to pick up on incoming and outgoing trails and other tracks. In the center was the carcass: Spinal column attached to the head, leg bones, skin pieces, hair balls and the stomach contents of a deer. The surrounding snow was bloody. We also found plenty of raven sign. Close by we found a second kill site where a smaller female deer was eaten. The bones were spread out further and we saw a long drag mark.

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In general the deer are very vulnerable right now. Their fat reserves are used up and due to the deep it’s hard for them to move around and find sufficient food. The thaw has just started though and we enjoy the first warm spell, which shows us that Spring will come eventually. I wonder how long it will be until the snow is all gone…

A Minimalist Life – by Little Big

Guardian Yearlong Blog post originally posted on March 3, 2014

For the sake of easier travelling with our Packframes, we decided to send all our gear that we don’t need right now back to the school’s support center. This means we only have our Sleeping bags, a little bit of Clothing and some miscellaneous things like Tomahawk, First aid kit and sewing stuff out here anymore. Besides extra Clothing, Wool blankets and our Bowls, we turned in our Tarps. We don’t need them. Since it is constantly below freezing, all the precipitation is dry anyway. We learned how to build a quick Lean-to shelter and all we need for building such can be easily found in the Woods around us. We slide a long Pole under the lowest branches of a dense Conifer tree (preferably with southern exposure and protected from north west winds), lift up the branches with the pole and hold the pole up with a couple of forked sticks – that’s our roof and snow protection. Then we put a good layer of conifer branches on the ground – that keeps us warm from underneath. And that’s it. Our quick cozy home for the night!

Sometimes we still get a little bit oversnowed. In that case we just shake our sleeping bags in the morning and are ready to go again. Aho!

Little Big introducing the quickie Lean-To to a school group

Little Big introducing the quickie Lean-To to a school group

Tromble Stomble

Guardian Yearlong blog post originally posted 2/21/14

Snowflake by snowflake, the white blanket covering our world is getting thicker and thicker. Not much else is to be seen but whiteness and trees covered in snow. And as we listen, there is a grand silence buried under all the snow.

We’ve left our river camp to hit the deep snow, being more nomadic looking for wolf tracks. We minimized our gear even further, as every gadget is extra weight on our backs. We each had our own tomahawks, bowls, crooked knives, notebooks and some unnecessary clothing that we have now sent back to the school. We took a day of preparation to sew up holes on our clothes. Roasted fat makes for easy traveling food so we cooked down the small pieces of bear fat in our carved bowls before sending them to be stored till the end of this experience. We butchered a deer that we had gotten a few suns earlier…and we were ready for take-off!

“But how do we carry all this?” asks Little Big, and by everyone’s body language I can tell they share the same question and the concern of how our backs will respond to the challenge…

Do we leave some here and pick it up sometime later, or do we carry it all in one go, just maxing it to the max? Or do we come and go several times…As we’re talking, Early is experimenting with making a sled out of his huge sleeping hide and tying a bundle of gear onto it…“Let’s not leave anything here” says Blondie “ we need to figure out a way to carry all this either now or later”. So that’s what we do, Early takes a back leg of the deer and some starch, Little Big packs up the leeks, Blondie takes the bear fat and I get out easy not carrying any of the communal stuff or food because of my back troubles.

Off we go! Tromble tromble, stomple stomple, gust and pust, pust and gust as we move through the snow. Wah! This is heavy! It is hard going even if you are walking in the back. What we do when we travel through these deep snows is that one person goes ahead and breaks trail, then we each step in the same footsteps as the person in front, which makes it a lot less exhausting to be in the back. Just like wolf do in the snow, and geese in the sky.

“We’ve been walking for the time it takes to eat a big meal, and we’re just on the other side of the bog! In the green season we would have been here in the time it takes to crack a few nuts!”

Our plan was to go to the next creek, where we could sleep for the night and hydrate; but as the sun is going lower and lower we realize we won’t even get close. So we decide to set up camp and chuck down some snowballs. It goes smoothly; we don’t need to talk much – Early scouts out a sleeping spot. Blondie gathers boughs, Little Big scuffs away snow from one sleeping spot and I start making a fire…A little longer and the sun is down. Little Big is laying down the last boughs for the bedding, and the rest of us are breaking up a little more wood for our dinner fire.

Again we are gathered around the fire. We are all settled in, and it feels like home.

We have now been walking for a few suns, setting up new camps each night, and we feel the journey in our bodies. We must build a toboggan or sled or something! Not long after having that wish, we we’re gifted one! Now we’re all excited to see how our traveling will go with our new sled!

Off we go to Pine River north or to follow the wolf trail! No matter what, one thing is for sure, the tromble and stomple over the white blanket covering the earth will continue! Like a pen writes her story over a sheet of paper, we will write ours with feet gliding over the snow cover.

Going up, Going down, and Stayin’ up Front!

Guardian Yearlong blog post originally posted 10/11/13

Leaves are falling like snow flakes in the maple woods, the ash trees lost their since quite sometime ago already….Now when us guardians find some choke cherries we all rush with excitment, as they become more and more scarce. We knocked down the last five apples from the apple tree on the way over to the support centre, were I have come in for another visit to the shinny screen and plastic buttons to update you all on what we’ve been up too!

For one of the last three moons we were scouting out one of the big bogs of the headwater wilderness area, more specificly the bogs and creeks that feeds Pine River. Learning about the diffrent types of bogs here, alder bogs, cedar bog, ash bog, spruce bog etc, and why these plants grow were they grow. How to travel smoothly and quickly if needed through a big bog, and how the diffrent animals run their trails…Solving riddles of how a creek can run into a cedar bog and dissapear and come out again on the other side. Discovering how river is formed, the springs that feed them. Feeling the ancient beuty that rests in the bogs which have never before been logged. We’ve worked hard at mapping out every whitepine, small trickle of water, spring hole and every big or small detail or this bog, and making a map out of it in our camp. A creative map consisting of stick, stones and bark. Every other sun we have added more details and changed the proportions of the map, it has been quite a project!

Doing the bog scouting I’ve climb trees like I never have before! Wonderfull being so close to the sky, and still grounded to the earth! It is an amazing opportunity I discoverved, not just to see the world from a diffrent perspective, but also for quickly gaining perspective on the landscape around me and finding what I am looking for over a huge area by just climbing one tall tree! This discovery certainly has open up many new doors (although we dont have doors out in the woods).
Now we just go for a stroll somewhere and it comes natural to send one of us up a tree,just to check the area =)

Now we have moved our canoes over the bog, and paddled up the river to set camp up by one of the big meadows. Our tarps, set up as lean-toos with only sticks (no cordage), are spread out over the meadow. Each tarp has it’s own charachter, a charachter that fits well with the person who set it up!
We’re now working on getting the hide tanning area together, and scouting out the beaver activity on the creek, we’ve located 9-10 beaver lodges close to us, and we are looking forward to building a realtionship with them, and getting to know them better! This is probably were our focus will be the next moon or soo. We also got some rice to process by hand that we keept from the quarter moon that were we harvesting wild rice awhile ago.
There is all kind of things happning, and still everyday is the same, in a beutifull way. We wake up at dawn, and then live, learn, learn experience, run in circles or run straight, stumble and fumble or stay balanced, in either case we usually fall asleep in the evening, and do it all over in the morning. =)

We’ve also been experminting alot with fire making…. Everyone in our group have now made fires…
We dont have any matches out here, so we make all our fires by friction using the bow drill thechnique, and using no tool in making our kits, no knifes or tomahawks… It is a whole world to discover we see! Now we are leaving our fire kits out in the rain for many suns, or soak them in water and make fires, or not using any fireboards, but just drilling in the logs around camp, making cordage from roots and wood and using other things than tinder to start a fire: there is so much to play with!
The practical skill of being able to do and learn these things is great and fun, but there is an even deeper learning we are gaining for doing what we do with fire. We’ve decided that every fire we make will be one were we are on our frontier, meaning that we will not settle for “just making a fire” a “quicky fire” doing what we already know and works just to get that fire so we can have dinner, we are always learning new things, just in our every day lives! I see that by applying this attitude towards fire making I learn much faster than I would other wise, but what would life be like if you apply this to all the things you do in life? Were the way becomes to goal. To become that curious child again that we once were, and still are. And to still be that child even when you are cold, tiered, hungry and irritated. Now this is what we’re learning!

Perspective on Life in the Woods after their First Moon – by Big Eyes

Guardian Yearlong blog post originally posted on 8/20/13Dropping our names has been very fun. I have experimented a lot with nicknames, and some have stuck. Scratch-Eye, Big Laugh, Long Hair, Blonde, Fire Beard, Early Bird, and I am often referred to as “Big Glasses”. We also will use things like “Standing Man” and “Nut Cracker” and similar names that only make sense in context. For time-frames we improve: “Short walk to Julia Creek” or “Robin Song”, etc. It’s a great mental exercise that keeps me creative and on my toes. We have similar-purposed physical exercises – like wolf walking. We walk through the woods, the leader steps carefully, crouching, even crawling, weaving to touch as little as possible branches, trunks, etc and the group follows, each person shadowing the person before them and synching their footsteps. It’s fun to walk the woods like an obstacle course and gives me a new perspective. Sometimes it seems as though we are traveling on the paths of small animals like rabbits! I really enjoy that. It has been about one moon cycle now and so much is happening. I have come to recognize some of my patterns. I have had some healing experiences. Once on a walk, I saw a cottonwood tree and was overwhelmed with sadness. I cried it out sitting next to the trunk and gave my thanks. I didn’t fully understand the sadness, and didn’t have to. After I gained perspective on how amazing it is that we are here and every sun we eat delicious food around a fire and we talk and laugh and confront issues and work on projects and learn so much. There are many challenges and it can be hard. I want to find more ways to empower myself. Soon we leave this camp and begin hiking-camping-traveling. I am really excited – sometimes I look forward to it so much that I forget to enjoy my time here. I’m amazed by my classmates every sun. Everyone is different and brings something unique to the group.