A Model For Reviving H/G Culture


#1

I said earlier I had been thinking of a “model” for reviving hunter/gatherer culture. First I should explain what I mean by that. Modern rewilders seem to have come up with several methods for reaching the same goal, which is to revive hunter/gatherer culture. These methods, or ways, could also be called models. As I see it, there are just a few basic models in practice today:

The Gathering:
This includes rendezvous, rewilding camps, knap ins, and the like. This model follows the basic pattern of a hobbyist convention. Gatherings typically occur at a park or group campground, although smaller gatherings may be held in private homes or in the backcountry. Gatherings present enormous logistical challenges. There are usually admission fees, lunch lines, and port-a-potties involved. The activities are usually carefully scheduled, and lead by an organizer. Gatherings can be organized without fees, in which case donations and/or dedicated volunteers are necessary. Such gatherings can to be a great way to build a sense of community and exchange knowledge. But are gatherings leading us to our desired lifestyle?

The gathering model has obvious drawbacks. Since gatherings remove their participants from the systems that support them, the organizers become responsible for the health and safety of the participants. Organizers are thus forced to use conventional methods to feed everyone, deal with their waste, ext. In doing so, gatherings perpetuate contemporary social and environmental problems.

The School:
This includes classes and workshops, and other institutions where learning and teaching are the primary goals. Such schools follow the basic pattern of the schools that we all went to as kids. There is a clear student/teacher relationship, a curriculum, a graduation, and ext. The school model is often integrated with the gathering model. Some dedicated teachers find ways to operate without fees, but most need income to sustain their teaching careers. Classes and schools are a decent way to keep valuable skills and knowledge alive. However, there are criticisms of this model, many of which carry over from the criticisms of conventional schooling.

Schools tend to divorce skills of their intrinsic value, and isolate them from their context. A career teacher must have many students to support them, and such a teacher must spend more time teaching a skill than actually practicing it. Skills become commodities, and learners come to believe that tuition and grades, rather than personal drive, pave the path to success. Teachers are forced to curb their own enthusiasm for their subject in order to cater to their many students. And so schools breed laziness and disinterest. Large schools face even greater logistical challenges, and perpetuate the same social and environmental problems that gatherings do.

This leads one to wonder if the only sustainable model for student/teacher relationships is the natural relationship of a youth with an elder. In a community, an elder can guide a youth within the context of the system that supports them both. Such an elder is motivated to teach from paternal or maternal instinct only. The youth in this case is motivated only by their natural inclinations to observe, mimic, and experiment.

The Survival Trek:
This model is far less formal, and perhaps more genuine than the above models. This is “dirt time”, generally what teachers would rather be doing. A survival trek happens when one person, or a group of friends, get some time off and flee into the woods for a weekend or even a whole summer. A trekker, often integrating modern gear with Stone Age gear, attempts to recreate a primitive lifestyle to some degree. This is probably the best way to learn survival skills and push them to the next level. It’s also a great way to ground oneself and connect with nature. But how close does this actually get us to our goal of reviving hunter/gatherer culture?

For a number of reasons, it seems unlikely that survival treks will morph into sustained primitive communities. Treks are usually made on remote and rugged public lands, which are regulated to facilitate temporary hunting, fishing, and camping trips. Even though a trek may run for a very long time, trekkers seldom become established enough in the environment to support a community. Treks are generally too rigorous for children and the elderly. These age groups are less concerned with testing themselves and more concerned with living comfortably. The young adults that conduct survival treks typically create models of primitive living that appeal primarily to their own age group. Treks are temporary because they are difficult and difficult because they are temporary. If it’s community we’re after, we need something a little more accessible, yet long term.

The Intentional Community:
Idealists, perhaps disillusioned with other models, often resort to this one. It is the most extreme model. Communes and compounds are examples of intentional communities. Intentional communities are high commitment; most assume a set of common ideals, and a permanent lifestyle change. This the first reason most of us will never join one. There are shining examples of successful intentional communities, but we know that most of them fail. Because only a small number of people ever join a particular intentional community, some of whom are crazy, the members eventually get sick of each other and abandon ship. If people don’t like each other, no amount of shared belief will keep them together.

It turns out that most successful communities are unintentional. A set of common beliefs may bring people to a church, but it is the circles of friends within a church that make it a community. It seems very odd that we would use the intentional community model to revive primitive culture, considering how primitive cultures epitomized fluid membership and nomadism.

My criticism of the above models, and my study of the indigenous people of my area, the Columbia Plateau, inspired me to develop a more appropriate model.

Because of their unique sustenance strategy, anthropologists have called the indigenous people of the Columbia Plateau “semi-sedentary hunter/gatherers”. In the winter, people occupied large villages on the river. In the summer, people dispersed to seasonal camps, which were located where wild foods were abundant. Membership of both the winter villages and seasonal camps was fluid. Families pitched their lodges wherever they pleased. They might choose to change villages every year, or stay in the same village for their entire lives. A family or group of families might even decide to pitch their lodges away from the main villages.

Prominent people in the village led the seasonal hunting and gathering excursions that provisioned families with their winter food store. Participation in these excursions was also fluid. While most of the village harvested roots from one patch, a smaller group might decide to harvest at a smaller patch, or harvest some other kind of food, somewhere else. Adventurous people might even decide to travel to the territory of a people who spoke a different language, to net salmon, hunt bison, or dig camas. Places of abundant wild food, like the Kettle Falls fishery, or the Kittitas root ground, often served as cross-cultural gathering places, attracting hundreds or even thousands of people. And so families and individuals made their living, by traveling from one gathering to the next, at their whim. With harvesting going on all over the region, people stayed only where the best food and company were to be found.

This, I think, is the model we need to emulate. Of course, it needs some tweaking for the modern scenario. I’ve done lot thinking about it, and I think I’ve worked out most of the bugs.

Want to revive hunter/gatherer culture in your region? Here is what you do:

  1. Locate a source of abundant wild food. Preferably this food is high in calories, a staple. It can be a traditional wild food like camas, but it doesn’t have to be. It could be something like a grove of wild apple trees, or a canal where carp spawn. There could be multiple food sources. Be creative. There should also be good places to camp nearby, a water source, and a place to dig a latrine. This could be on public or private land. Ideally, it is a place that people have to ditch their cars to get into. Even if that means parking a short distance away, you want the campers to arrive creatively- on foot, paddling, biking, on horseback, whatever.

  2. Research your resource. You will be responsible for developing sustainable harvesting methods and teaching them to others. What time of year is the food harvested? What tools will you need? How will you process the food? Can people sustain themselves entirely on the site, or will they need supplementary provisions? What are the conditions like? What should participants bring with them? What activities and technologies are inappropriate for the site? If your food source in on public land, what are the legal issues that apply? Should harvest limits be set? How will the impact of your activities be mitigated? How many participants is too many? How will you interact with the public? There are many questions to answer, many of which will be unique to the resource and the site.

  3. You are a now a chief. Like the “Salmon Chiefs” of old, you are now a “Carp Chief” or an “Apple Chief” according to the resource you steward. Having done all the research, you now invite people to your camp, and inform them of what to expect and what to bring. If nobody likes you, nobody will come. If all goes well, some of your friends and a few strangers show up.

  4. Now you are a real hunter/gatherer. Some of your guests won’t know what the heck they’re doing, so you’ll have to teach them. You all plan camp there for a matter of days or weeks, but people can come and go as they wish. Shelters may get closer together or further away. The idea is to subsist primarily on of the food you are harvesting, or on supplies of wild food harvested beforehand, or food from home gardens. But there is no reason to be puritanical about this. People will have their candy bars and such. The profound differences between good food and bad food make themselves apparent enough (What on earth does one do with a plastic wrapper where there is no garbage can? Why did I ever pay good money for a salad? How many animals die to feed me?). Some campers may wish to preserve a portion of their harvest and take it with them. But remember, as a hunter/gatherer, you can’t be expected to work for more than three or four hours a day. You’ll want to fill the greater part of the day with pre-television amusements like games, crafting, napping, romancing, and storytelling. Camp life should be a vacation from the civilized world. If it’s not ten times more pleasurable than the nine-to-five lifestyle, you’re doing it wrong.

  5. Its’ contagious. If people enjoyed your camp, they will come back next year. They may decide to start their own. You and your friends might even create a series of camps, harvesting different foods throughout the year, so that you can bounce from camp to camp all summer long. Hard core primitivists would no longer have to live in isolated intentional communities- they could travel the camp circuit year-around. Whole families could work conventional jobs in the winter, and spend their summers foraging. Or maybe some people attend just one camp a year. If you don’t like the people at one camp, you can start your own or attend another. We could start camps all over the country and throughout the world.

  6. Using natural resources will teach society to take better care of them. If somebody is using a camas meadow, it is less likely that a K-mart will get built there. People who subsist on wild foods will find ways, not just to protect them as they exist, but to restore them to their former glory, even expand their range. If enough people were foraging on public lands, land management agencies would be forced to alter their management practices to accommodate foragers. Awareness of wild foods would spread. Wild foods would become carefully mapped and protected. Widespread foraging could put destructive industries, like the salad and berry growing industries, out of business.

This model is flexible. It’s accessible. It’s low commitment. It’s replicable. It’s realistic. It’s in context. And it’s fun. I think the old hunter/gatherers would approve.

Of course, I’m very interested in your feedback and criticism. Are any of the six steps incomplete? Should there be another step? Are there intrinsic flaws? Is this model not accessible to someone like you?

-Kyle


#2

I"m impressed Kyle. I enjoyed and agree with your critiques of the existing models. I think the model you’ve described is a good one. At least a practical way to get started and serious.


#3

Hello Kyle, thank you for a thought-provoking entry. I very much enjoyed reading your description of the lifestyle of indigenous people in the Columbia Plateau. It seems that some models out there, including rewilding camps, provide for a more gradual transition into a wild lifestyle. This model seems to skip past rewild camp, and go directly to rewilding haven and tribe. I think there are reasons this leap has not been made sooner, such as degraded or insufficient land base, and lack of physical and social skills. I’m a big fan of any lifestyle that potentially does not involve money in any way, however, so this model is especially exciting.

“1. Locate a source of abundant wild food…There should also be good places to camp nearby, a water source, and a place to dig a latrine.”
→If there is no private land available, and the public land in your area is off limits to gathering, or it is polluted, then it will first require change of regulations to allow access and bioremediation/regenerative practices to restore biodiversity and health. Some people might be lucky enough to live in an area where they can jump right in and live by hunting/gathering, or do so while simultaneously healing the land. Many though, do not live near such healthy accessible land. As a case study of my own neighborhood, in terms of abundant wild food not legally restricted, there are ocean fishing, insects, limited wild plants, and nuts (Lithocarpus edulis) to gather in autumn. However, there is no place to camp or dig latrines legally. Compost toilets in buckets, etc., might be an alternative to latrines. Public land is extremely limited and regulated. Even living in RVs, vans, or campers, like some Roma gypsies, would prove difficult with virtually no place to park. I suppose an option would be living on boats like sea gypsies. I’ve also seen a few homeless men set up on the beach using blue tarps and makeshift shacks. In other areas within a few hours drive, I’ve seen more extensive homeless camps along rivers. The survival tactics of homeless or urban nomads may provide an excellent reference when combined with other rewilding technology.

“2. Research your resource.”
→As for researching your resource, this is a lot for one person to handle, and it underlines the need for first building a rewilding culture and relationships before one is even able to do proper research. In my area, I’ve been trying to form relationships with elders who have such knowledge of the land before I quit my day job. That said, I suppose it does not need to be perfect from the start, and simply making the attempt, and committing to physically staying on the land for limited spans could accelerate the process of rewilding.

“3. You are a now a chief.”
→At this point, the model starts to sound like a Big Man society. This seems to be an area where a lot of people are attempting to figure out sustainable ways of interacting and decision-making. From open space technology, agile teams, consensus, talking circles, anarchy, to Great Law of Peace, this refers to the political realm. I wonder, what are your ideas for how to get along with everyone once they arrive?

“4. Now you are a real hunter/gatherer. Some of your guests won’t know what the heck they’re doing, so you’ll have to teach them. You all plan camp there for a matter of days or weeks, but people can come and go as they wish.”
→If you only stay for a few days, and bring in supplies to eat, then how does this differ from a rewild camp?

“5. Its’ contagious. If people enjoyed your camp, they will come back next year.”
→This model seems to be somewhere between a rewild camp and haven. Is there another word besides “camp” that you could use here to give a clearer image?

To wrap up, I love the idea of jumping right into hunter/gatherer living. Not to be the party pooper, however, but there are reasons people haven’t done this yet. Some include insufficient access to healthy land and inadequate physical and social technology knowledge.

In my own case, I think the two biggest barriers to rewilding are food & medicine. I’m gradually learning how to procure wild food supplies, and how to use food and lifestyle as medicine. However, I realize this is an enormous task that requires the cooperation of various elders. Your model certainly considers the food aspect, but what does it have to say about medicine?

Cheers from Japan


#4

Kjartan and Godzilla,

I appreciate the feedback. As I was reading through your response, Godzilla, I kept thinking to myself, “Why can’t you just walk out of town a little way? How far could it be?” Only later did I realize that you occupy one of the most densely populated island nations in the world. It’s horrifying for me to think, that you’d have to cross the ocean to find someplace you could sleep, poop, and eat the berries in peace.

No, I realy don’t think my idea would work in Japan. I’d like to travel there with my fiance sometime, but we doubt we’ll find any camping, making the trip a difficult proposition. I should have prefaced with the thought that I live in the intermountain western United States. My thoughts come from that perspective.

I don’t want anyone to think I’m proposing a “big man” culture. The way I’m using the word “chief” here is borrowed from the indigenous term “salmon chief”. A salmon chief’s duty is ensure an equitable and sustainable harvest at a particular fishing spot, administer relevant ceremonies, ext. The chief’s role is more of duty than a position of power. Plateau culture was very egalitarian, and it would have seemed absurd for anyone to lord over anyone else.

The kind of camp chief I’m talking about would not intervene in the behavior of others, unless the resource was being abused. The chief’s role is to foster stewardship, otherwise, he/she is just another member of camp. Since camp members convene at will, on a temporary basis, there is no motive to assume authority.

As far as “how to get along with everyone once they arrive?”, I don’t know, how does one get along with anyone anywhere? This seems very commonsense to me, though I do have had a lot of experience with small isolated groups.

I do suggest bringing some some food along, if only because eating the same thing for days can become tiresome. However, I also suggest attempting to live on the wild harvest as much as one is comfortabe with. So, maybe, a group decides to go dig roots, and someone brings along a side of venison, somebody else brings a basket of nuts from the year before, ext. A good camp should be at least a week. Nature provides these great 2-3 week harvesting windows. But a weekend camp is possible.

And I like the term “camp” for this. Because what I’m describing is true to the original meaning of camping.

And about medicine- I haven’t realy taken medicine, conventional or otherwise, since childhood. I got nasty giardia symptoms once, so I ate raw garlic. The diareah went away, but who knows if the garlic cured me or not? I’ve done a lot of wilderness first aid, and find that most of the common pills are useless (exept for diphenhydramin in the case of allergies). Diareaha and vomiting run thier course. Joint and muscle pain build character. Rashes go away. Bleeding is easy enough to stop. Carefully cleaned and aerated wounds rarely become infected. Fractured bones can be set. The body can recover from the vast majority of illessess and injuries on its own, with a little commonsense care. Of coarse, some things will just kill you. Except for serious hospital procedures like surgery and trauma care, most of modern medicine is just fluff- stuff that masks symptoms, dulls pain, or gives peace of mind. A lot of primitive medicine is fluff too- baldness remedies, aphrodisiacs, antipersperants, ext.

Anyway, good luck Godzilla. I look forward to talking more about strategies for rewilding Japan.

-Kyle


#5
And about medicine- I haven't realy taken medicine, conventional or otherwise, since childhood. I got nasty giardia symptoms once, so I ate raw garlic. The diareah went away, but who knows if the garlic cured me or not? I've done a lot of wilderness first aid, and find that most of the common pills are useless (exept for diphenhydramin in the case of allergies). Diareaha and vomiting run thier course. Joint and muscle pain build character. Rashes go away. Bleeding is easy enough to stop. Carefully cleaned and aerated wounds rarely become infected. Fractured bones can be set. The body can recover from the vast majority of illessess and injuries on its own, with a little commonsense care. Of coarse, some things will just kill you. Except for serious hospital procedures like surgery and trauma care, most of modern medicine is just fluff- stuff that masks symptoms, dulls pain, or gives peace of mind. A lot of primitive medicine is fluff too- baldness remedies, aphrodisiacs, antipersperants, ext.

Yep. I take aspirin on occasion and brush my teeth often. Since I stopped going to the doctor, I never get sick anymore.


#6

Hi Kyle, thank you for another stimulating reply. I put my thoughts under your comments below:

  1. “I appreciate the feedback. As I was reading through your response, Godzilla, I kept thinking to myself, “Why can’t you just walk out of town a little way? How far could it be?” Only later did I realize that you occupy one of the most densely populated island nations in the world. It’s horrifying for me to think, that you’d have to cross the ocean to find someplace you could sleep, poop, and eat the berries in peace. No, I realy don’t think my idea would work in Japan. I’d like to travel there with my fiance sometime, but we doubt we’ll find any camping, making the trip a difficult proposition. I should have prefaced with the thought that I live in the intermountain western United States. My thoughts come from that perspective.”

→Sorry if I caused misunderstanding. While Japanese cities are densely populated, there are still areas to camp. Camping outside campgrounds is called “survivalist camping” here. My neighborhood, however, is over developed. The only camping possible nearby is beach camping. If you choose the locations carefully, you should have plenty of camping opportunities in Japan. I’m very happy to help you plan a trip to Japan so don’t hesitate to ask. About boats, I meant keeping close to shore rather than having to cross the ocean. The Thai sea gypsy culture could be a model.

  1. “I don’t want anyone to think I’m proposing a “big man” culture. The way I’m using the word “chief” here is borrowed from the indigenous term “salmon chief”. A salmon chief’s duty is ensure an equitable and sustainable harvest at a particular fishing spot, administer relevant ceremonies, ext. The chief’s role is more of duty than a position of power. Plateau culture was very egalitarian, and it would have seemed absurd for anyone to lord over anyone else. The kind of camp chief I’m talking about would not intervene in the behavior of others, unless the resource was being abused. The chief’s role is to foster stewardship, otherwise, he/she is just another member of camp. Since camp members convene at will, on a temporary basis, there is no motive to assume authority.”

→Thank you for clarifying “chief.” Intervening in case of resource abuse suggests a certain authority or knowledge of caretaking/stewardship. I wonder if the standard of an “equitable and sustainable harvest” is obvious. The word “stewardship” sets off alarm bells in my head. It seems to take for granted that humans have the ability to improve on their environment. I watched the “WISDOMKEEPERS” videos about the Lakota the other day and wondered how they could strive to be on the same level as an ant, yet also consider themselves “guardians” of the land. I’m struggling to understand how it’s possible to hold humility alongside considering oneself to be a teacher of absolute natural laws. Clashes arise because more than one group claims access to the one true voice. I like the idea that rewilding is constant re-questioning of how to best interact with the land and each other. Maybe the “natural law” means always remaining aware of the potential for change. Personally I’d like to engage in “stewardship” as long as it is kept very fluid. I realize being a relativist would hinder any practical actions, but that is different from keeping one’s mind open to possibilities at every moment. I found similarities to this in the recent article about Ellen Langer’s “mindfulness.” http://harvardmagazine.com/2010/09/the-mindfulness-chronicles
Such openness seems to be at the core of the “new animism” promoted by Graham Harvey. And phenomenology and quantum theory.
Recently I discussed this with a Japanese agroforestry teacher, and he explained that Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic describes humans’ responsibility to preserve “land health.” To him, that smacks of hubris. On his own land, he does not claim to know what’s best for the land or say he can hear the voice of God. He just lives as one of the members of the natural community and acts for his own comfort while observing how that affects all. It’s very different to say “I obey the voice of God and unchanging laws for land management” compared to “I seek comfort and pleasure kept sustainable through efforts to be aware of the community.”

  1. “As far as “how to get along with everyone once they arrive?”, I don’t know, how does one get along with anyone anywhere? This seems very commonsense to me, though I do have had a lot of experience with small isolated groups.”

→I don’t have much experience with small isolated groups, so any stories of episodes would be much appreciated.

  1. “I do suggest bringing some some food along, if only because eating the same thing for days can become tiresome. However, I also suggest attempting to live on the wild harvest as much as one is comfortabe with. So, maybe, a group decides to go dig roots, and someone brings along a side of venison, somebody else brings a basket of nuts from the year before, ext. A good camp should be at least a week. Nature provides these great 2-3 week harvesting windows. But a weekend camp is possible.
    And I like the term “camp” for this. Because what I’m describing is true to the original meaning of camping.”

→ Can you suggest some resources about learning more about the original meaning of camping? Am I correct to understand that the basic difference between the “camp” and the “gathering” is that the “camp” strives to have a longer more direct relationship to the land where it is held?

  1. “And about medicine- I haven’t realy taken medicine, conventional or otherwise, since childhood. I got nasty giardia symptoms once, so I ate raw garlic. The diareah went away, but who knows if the garlic cured me or not? I’ve done a lot of wilderness first aid, and find that most of the common pills are useless (exept for diphenhydramin in the case of allergies). Diareaha and vomiting run thier course. Joint and muscle pain build character. Rashes go away. Bleeding is easy enough to stop. Carefully cleaned and aerated wounds rarely become infected. Fractured bones can be set. The body can recover from the vast majority of illessess and injuries on its own, with a little commonsense care. Of coarse, some things will just kill you. Except for serious hospital procedures like surgery and trauma care, most of modern medicine is just fluff- stuff that masks symptoms, dulls pain, or gives peace of mind. A lot of primitive medicine is fluff too- baldness remedies, aphrodisiacs, antipersperants, ext.”

→Having been a sickly child, I find myself rather attached to western medicine. I don’t deny, however, that I could have avoided illness had my upbringing differed. Allergy shots, antibiotics for pneumonia, dental surgery, etc. I’m interested in learning more about herbalism and other alternative healing methods. Also, while I hope to increase my own self-healing ability and pain/discomfort threshold, I’d like to become better able to relieve others’ (perceived) suffering. As much as possible, I’d like to facilitate a camp that doesn’t have to weed out the weak or infirm.

  1. “Anyway, good luck Godzilla. I look forward to talking more about strategies for rewilding Japan.”

→In urban or semi-urban areas, I think the Japanese homeless tent villages deserve more attention. If one is inclined to voluntarily drop out, then their survival and organizational methods are an interesting reference. Here are a couple of links:


http://www.cosmicbuddha.com/adam/archives/001836.html

http://wonderland.cafebabel.com/en/post/2009/04/01/Tent-village-in-Yoyogi

The image I have formed of Japan is that the average farmer is 65 or older, nearly all the young leave home for the cities, and many farming villages are coming to resemble ghost towns. The Japanese countryside offers a good land base for rewilding. Water is abundant and the climate gives forests a unique ability to regenerate quickly. Reasons I often hear for not living in the countryside include: xenophobic and meddlesome villagers, lack of jobs, and lack of modern amenities. These are not problems if one is willing to have relationships with neighbors and does not seek a life that relies on jobs or modern (petroleum-based) amenities. Personally, I think many people in Japan have been conditioned to become addicted to pampering, self-entitlement, disconnection, and unquestioning of authority. It is therefore no mystery why the vast majority move to big cities. It is the land of the free-lunch mentality and out-of-sight out-of-mind. While the land base is physically available for rewilding, social conditioning remains a hurdle. I have been slowly connecting with people who are open to rewilding concepts and have access to some land, but are still reliant on money and jobs. When I say “people who are open to rewilding,” it often comes down to food. When pointing judgment at myself, my first question is what am I eating? I think diet is the quickest way to determine someone’s ethics. Also, I’ve yet to communicate with rewilders in Japan via this website. So if you’re reading this in Japan, your voice is wanted!

-Godzilla


#7

Thank you for this nice post and idea. It sounds like a faboulous idea indeed.

I have long since understood chiefdom always in the way you explain it here and it is the only way it can work properly. If beeing a chief is a task, a duty and holds basically no power, then there is no incentive for people to strive for that position. This is the way it seems, many indigenous people who have stayed egalitarian handle things. It is also apparent for example in “Original Wisdom” (Robert Wolff) in which the healer/shaman position is more of an additional function of that person rather than him beeing a specialist.

The fluidity and thereby freedom in that concept makes it very appealing. Also basically the idea to form a large hunting/gathering habitat by doing a patchwork, basically linking small areas into one large one (even if that means sadly to use plenty of tranportation) is a great one, as continous large habitats to truely rewild are limited indeed. Of course such a scattered (in place and time) setting may also make it harder to form some sort of community spirit, but I guess subgroups (circles of friends) may form from this.

I have some comments though.
First of all, I am with Godzilla here, that it is sometimes hard to find places that allow camps. I live in Europe and if you do not want to break laws, it is practically impossible to do this properly. Here in Germany, there is almost no land that one can take significant amounts of food from without permission - not to mention that there are few places at all that give wild food in abundance as almost all land is “managed”. There are strict laws (requiring large investments to abide by them) on hunting, fishing, camping and almost all “nice” areas are protected, meaning you cant even collect firewood. This basically reduces gatherings/camps to private land with permission of the owner who of course usually will want compensation for land use…

There is the movement of “rainbow tribe” people who do many gatherings and some of them actually move from camp to camp for longer periods of time. Sadly, due to the restrictions I mentioned, these camps usually require people to bring food instead of gathering it locally, so it requires people to earn money and buy food for that time. Still it is something of a similar idea: They also have local “focalizers”(=Chiefs) who find a locality, know about the rules of that locality and keep an eye on it; the camps last 2-4 weeks and basically everyone is accepted. Often the camps have a “theme” like eating raw food or only veggie food or whatever…

Another one is your statement, that intentional communities are extremely prone to fail and inadequate means. I am still reading a book on intentional communities referenced here: http://tobyspeople.com/ideas/storyjamming and it seems there are promising ways to do this still. (Hehe of course I am digging intentional communities, so obvioulsy I am trying to defend that idea :wink: ). But after all, people in natural communities also do not get along all the time and still stick together. Even within a circle of friends or within a family, disputes, dislike and anger can get into the way. A way to work against this is described in that article as building a solid community spirit beyond a shared belief.

I had a “vision” some time ago to actually link existing and new intentional communities by a similar system of visits, but while this puts a legal basis on things and secures landbase, of course this involves a lot more dedication and is much less likely to succeed than your system due to the higher investemnts needed. It would however enable people to not have to work ugly jobs for half a year to finance their life.

I am still thinking of intentional communities as a possibility - with some extensions, like setting up partnerships with other communities for visits and sharing of food etc and another extension we came up with is a nomadic camp as you described in your post. Some people, maybe several groups would go on extended trips or travels for a time (“hunting/fishing trips”). That way, people could also get out of camp and away of conflicts. I dont know if this setup is possible though, it would require quite a specific setting (a fixed mostly self sustaining settlement with plenty of public land in the vicinity for these trips) and maybe ties to other people with similar ideas or to your proposed network of temporary camps (there could be gatherings at these communities).

What I want to know is, how do you think will people deal with large gatherings and many unknown people. Groups of people beyond Dunbars number, especially ones with changing participants are prone to a number of ill effects like all kinds of anonymity issues (not beeing able to connect to all the people there personally). Not having to deal with someone else later makes it easier to offend others or simply not care. Probably rewilding-people are different in their mindset, but I see an issue with too large gatherings. How do you think this would work out?

Overall, I have to say, I like your idea very much! Independent of the mode of living one has in the times between these camps (like living in the city working or living in an intentional community) this seems a good idea to build something, at least in suitable areas.

I think “homeless” people are indeed fascinating. Some have actually moved beyond beeing homeless and instead changed their mindset towards a neo-tribalism with nomadic elements. Thinking of it, if you do an “Alexander Supertramp” :wink: - packing your tent and some stuff and some people and move about in the wild for some time, you are essentially also homeless, though most will probably have a backup home to return to :wink:

On illness, I think this is a large topic. Medical help, especially trauma surgery and some serious disease care are probably among the single most appreciable things about civilization. Industrial food, TV, media, cars, cities, all-you-can-drink parties, the internet, videogames - if all that goes away I would not care and for others it would be merely an inconvenience. But to fall off a tree or be bitten by a bear and then have no surgeon … Or swallow a bad mushroom, get a severe disease or parasite and not have a doctor - that sounds pretty bad. Bad enough for me to punch a nick in my dreams of a rewilded world…

Sorry for long post :wink: - Greetings

EDIT: PS: When talking to a friend about this idea we thought of something: Do you think there are many areas that really can provide in a small area enough food for many people. often, gathering is only sustainable because the resources are widely scattered. Of course a fruit tree orchard or a river in salmon season would be able to provide, but many of the wild edibles are only there in abundance for a small number of people. If too many people come to a place, they may overstrain it, right? I am not too familiar with such settings - maybe you can tell me some more examples at what places (with what “resources”) such a gathering/camp could happen?


#8

Both responses here have given me a lot to think about. First I’d like to briefly address some of questions brought up.

-As to group size: I think we should keep these camps well below Dunbar’s Number. I’d envisioned groups of 10-20 people. But this, of coarse, depends on the resource being used. It would be the ‘chief’s’ responsibility to determine a maximum group size, and even turn people away, if need be.

-As far as resource examples:

I know of vast rangeland areas were bitterroot and various biscuitroot species are common enough to support dispersed harvesting at a level aproaching the level of indigenous use. The same could be said of serviceberries, chokecherries, goldend currants, hucklberries, and blackcaps, and tree lichen. Except where agriculture and development have completey replaced thier habitat, these plants are as abundant as they ever were. In the Southwestern US, acorns, pine nuts, and prickly pears, are a similar story.

I’ve discovered a few meadows in which camas and associated root foods are abundant enough to sustain large groups for several weeks. These areas are more rare, having been spotty at contact, and having suffered from development, forest encroachment, overgrazing, ext. If not in their former glory, many have survived.

Every state has ‘pest’ animals for which hunting sees little or no regulation. The list includes jackrabbits, coyotes, groung squirrels, feral tree squirels, nutria, carp, ext. (On the island of Molokai in Hawaii, deer are a serious pest, and may be harvested without limit)

As mentioned before, carp spawning areas are productive, as are other kinds of fish in some ponds I know of.

Feral fruits such as apple and cherry plum exist in adequate stands to support a group. I believe I can locate other feral resources, such as wild parnsip meadows, asperagus fields, ext.

Even a small swamp can provide a great deal of cattail starch and shoots.

Of coarse, it would be silly not to use diversified strategy. Ground squirrels and marmots can be hunted while digging camas. Burdock roots can be dug while collecting apples. If harvest coincides with the legal hunting seasons, small hunting parties should detach to take advantage of that.

-Land use laws in Japan and Germany seem to be a downer. I’m sure you’ve asked yourselves, “At what point am I willing to break the law, to assert my rights as a living creature?” Homeless people defy the law by thier very existance, and yet many people choose homelessness as a lifestyle.

-I don’t think intentional communities are a bad idea. A great many of them survive and do a great deal of good. I just think they are a bad model for the stone-age hunter/gatherer lifestyle. Of existing self sufficient intentional communities, most seem to be agrarian or industrial. All of the strictly ‘primitive’ intentional communities I know of have disbanded. I intend for my own substinance strategy to incorporate my permanent horticultural settlement, with a good mix of nomadic hunting/gathering and trading mixed in.

-I don’t have any scholarly reffrences for the ‘original definition’ of camping. I’m merely pointing out that gathering food was the main reason our ancestors changed residences, or in other words, ‘camped’. People today camp for much different reasons.

-Agroforestry is awsome. I’m on this path as well. I’m jealous that you have an agroforestry teacher, Godzilla. This is definitley not a subject in American schools, yet…

-I’ll have to take time later to post about my experiences getting along with small isolated groups. Since I’m going back to a tent and campfire tonight, where I live very closely with my partner, it’s difficult to get good perspective on this. It’s become normal for me.

What is the antithesis of communal living? School? Professional relationships? Nuclear families where members exploit incompatible surivival strategies?

Thanks for the links and thoughts!

-Kyle


#9

I really like this idea. When thinking about implementing it in the forest nearby, I realized I don’t know what dates the acorns will fall (fell early this year, though so many). I wonder how possibly to get around waiting up to the last minute so anyone who needs to can plan ahead?


#10

Any experiences since the last post?

What resources provide good opportunities? E.g. perhaps there are places where the willows need trimming and people can gather basketry materials? Or with plenty of acorns to gather?