If we need them and if you care. Though if you are considering purchasing any/all of our educational materials, you should ...
We traveled around the US during the mid-late 80's thru the early '90's, setting up camp and demonstating and teaching primitive skills at functions both major and small. One thing that stood out was the fact that most participants and demonstrators were accomplished (more or less) in only one or two skills. Flintknappers, bow and/or arrow maker, potter, basket maker, tanner - what have you. They'd be there - lots of 'em.
Visitors left with the belief (FALSE) that primitive man was a specialist. NOT!!!
Man has been around for a long - LONG time. For most all of his (our) existence we have been primitive - I mean, like - REAL primitive.
In this lifestyle the division of labor was a lot less than today. Men were capable of cooking, tanning, sewing - what have you. And women also were capable of "mens work"; flintknapping, hunting, trapping, et al. IT HAD TO BE! When the men left to hunt, they just might not come home. And if they did - just maybe ma & the kids were gone and the home was ashes. Either way, we strongly believe that.
ALL PEOPLE WERE CAPABLE OF ALL SKILLS!
Specialization as we think about it didn't come about until man began to settle into communities - like, maybe 10,000 years or so ago.
The thing that made Geri and I stand out at these gatherings was not so much the fact that we were extremely good at any one skill - it was the fact the we were pretty good at ALL THE SKILLS necessary to live primitively.
Our house usually was a tipi (kinda modern maybe, especially when made outta canvas), but oftentimes a strictly primitve wickiup - down to natural fiber lashings. All primitive clothing. Brained tanned skins, robes and pelts.
Pottery which we made and cooked in. Hundreds and hundreds of feet of cordage (ropes, bow strings, straps, lashings, etc.). Containers all over the place - from fish trap sized baskets to bladder water carriers.
Tools of bone, wood, shell and stone - axes, adzes and hafted knives and scrapers. Many, or most - sometimes all - of our meals were prepared primitively.
Our campsite contained what a campsite would have 2,000 years ago. We built and used every bit of it. And tho we have been out of the circuit for a few years now, we have never yet seen another camp as such!
Hand drill fire
The clay source that we have available here was very difficult to learn to fire - it took many trials & lots of error before we got it down to close to 100% success from digging clay to firing
Our pots are made for use - above being used on a group field trip. Small pots are individual's while large are for group cooking.
We believe strongly in primitive living skills - not in "communing" with nature or spiritualism. It takes "SKILLS" to make a fire, pot or basket - not a lot of chanting or weaving in the wind.
From our beginnings we have worked at learning to perfect SKILLS.
If one wants only to learn a particular skill (make a primitive bow, brain tan a skin, make a pot, et al), then well and good. Not a thing wrong with that - and the use of modern tools to replicate or make any item is fine.
BUT - when asked by new students in these skills (arts) just where to begin, for those who want to learn what is necessary for to live in the wilderness primitively, we recommend a base of (1) fire, (2) cordage, (3) shelters, (4) tools, (5) traps and (6) containers. You can't make a primitive pot if you can't make a primitive fire! These skills all inter-relate.
FIRE - will keep you warm (alive) and is a tool.
CORDAGE - ties things together - really. As a container - either by tying a bundle of goods up, a strap for over the shoulder or woven into a bag. Also used in many trap sytems and as string for a bow - either fire making or hunting.
TRAPS - feed you - while you're doing other things. Hunting is more often opportune than not unless you need a target animal for special use (deer). Geri is fond of saying that when you got a deer, you got K-Mart.
TOOLS - are what you need to accomplish your projects - stone, bone, wood, shell, antler (fire & cordage are tools also).
SHELTER - is what protects you from the elements. A proper one will allow an interior fire and work space for when weather is inclement.
CONTAINERS - if you're "Naked in the Wilderness", you ain't got pockets. You gotta have some means of transporting what you gather - including water.
Cheyenne River, ND - '87.
We have tanned close to (probably not over) 1000 skins, pelts and robes over the years.
THAT'S a lot of tanning - even at one a day. I, John, tanned 70 buckskin, three beaver pelts, one elk buckskin, and parts of several buffalo in 1985 (or '86) alone - my most ever for one year.
Geri scraping her first skin as John's student in June 1987 (L) and scraping her ?th skin (above) while wearing the first (and two others) some time later).
We do not specialize in nor stress edible plants - they are not necessary for sustaining life - they are a great additive to the diet
but you can have years of training on what can and cannot be eaten and still starve to death in a real long term survival situation.
I can teach you a trap in 15 minutes that you can gather the materials for, build and set in another 15 minutes (or less) and the animal
will take the plants that you can't eat - and also take the elements from the plants that your body doesn't require at the moment - and turn it
all into what your body does need. It's a lot easier to learn to to tell if an animal is safe to eat than it is to distinguish between certain close
look-a-like plants where one is poisonous - and at what stages of growth - and at what times of the year - and on and on.
Making pack basket for use on field trips.
This rotten piece of wood was made into a cooking bowl using the tools shown.
Some of our accomplishments
- Brain tanned close to a thousand skins, pelts and robes.
- Made hundreds of pots from clay that we have dug and fired primitively - containers in which we can carry water and cook.
- Made hundreds of baskets of all sizes and shapes using saplings, vines, roots and bark.
- Have utilized just about every part of wild animal carcasses: skins/pelts, meat, fats, intestines, bladder (& other organs), bones, brains, tendons, et al.
- Have made thousands of friction fires.
- Trapped (and utilized) small to medium sized animals.
- Have made well over 2,000 feet of cordage (rope & string) for use.
- I, John, have made well over 100 bows - self (all wood), sinew backed and a coupla composite horn bows. Geri has made "a few". Also more than that number of arrows.
- Have made many semi-permanent shelters from materials at hand - which keep out wind and rain and allow interior fires.
- Made a 20 foot long dugout canoe from a 30" diameter cottonwood tree - entirely with stone tools - a project with local kids. We are capable of doing all of the above using only natural, primitive made tools.
- Thru courses, demonstrations, seminars, books & videos, we have trained many thousands of ordinary folks to do the same. At one point, when we were doing classes here, we had over 50% of the instructors of B.O.S.S. come thru here.
- Our contacts (mailing list) and efforts (as Directors and editor of their bulletin) MADE the Society of Primitive Technology - get up and running.
- And we have recorded much of this both in our books and videos - in the VERY BEST COMPILATION, HOW-TO ON THESE SUBJECTS IN EXISTENCE. PERIOD!
We began to teach courses in the late '80's - after running into "literally" over 100 former students of one of the country's most famous OUTDOOR SKILLS schools before we found one who could make a friction fire - or cordage - two of the very most basic and inportant of skills. All their heads were filled with praise and BS - just no real hands on knowledge.
We felt that in two weeks time that we could teach most of the skills listed above - and we did. At that time, we had the only school (from 1987 thru 1993 or so) that we were aware of that was turning out instructor qualified graduates in this field.
We do not run courses anymore - tho we are having a Special Forces A-Team coming here this fall for 2 1/2 weeks of intensive primitive wilderness training.