Rewilding vs. Primitive Skills and Survivalism


I don’t mean for the rewilding message to sound anti- physical primitive skills. Certainly we all need the basics of survival … you know, in order to survive and all. To varying degrees I think we all have an interest in the physical technologies.

But we also want to draw people’s attention to the invisible technologies because they don’t stand out so obviously. I think you summed it up perfectly, kiliii when you said

but when the collapse of civilization occurs, I will be spending time with people who have direct experience with food, water, fire and shelter

Of course we want the experience of the food/water/fire/shelter, but we also need to understand the “spending time with people” part as well. Rewilding needs to have a balance of the physical and invisible technologies in order to take us past the crash.

The reason I titled this post the way I did was not to say that rewilding has nothing to do with primitive skills or survivialism, but to say that it encompasses more than just those things.

Like Jason has pointed out elsewhere, the physical stuff actually comes a lot easier than the rest. For Joe Civie to learn how to knap flint probably poses less of a difficult than for Joe Civie to learn how to come to a communal decision with Jane and Jack Civie. They also have to learn to think of their non-human neighbors as more than just “resources” if they want to keep from committing the same earth-killing atrocities that Civilization has always done. In order to forge past Civilization into a workable future, we need lots of things, and the physical part is just that – a part.

During ww2 they encouraged people to grow gardens. They called them Victory Gardens. I call mine my Anarchy Plot.

I love that!


Let me clarify some things.

I believe anyone with knowledge of primitive skills who is practicing them has a leg-up during the collapse. I believe that whoever has these skills, once living in their landbase will develop an understanding of that land… or they’ll die. The metaphor here is that some people can find their way without navigational skills, and some may not. To me though, the navigational skills seem much harder to learn than the physical skills. Obviously a balance of these skills would be the most beneficial. That’s what I’m trying to say, that I don’t think they should be separated. I also don’t think an easy transition from civ to hunting and gathering is possible, which is why I’m also investing energy in learning Perma-culture.

There seem to be so many myths floating around about how 'hunter-gatherers' used to be and how good they had it, but the more I learn and experience, the more I temtem (feel/think in chinuk wawa) that some hunter-gatherers had it pretty rough,

Read Limited Wants Unlimited Means, which outlines with well researched evidence, exactly why hunter-gatherer cultures had a better system. To say a generic statement like, “some hunter-gatherers had it pretty rough” is probably true. Though how do you define “rough?” What evidence do you have to show for that statement? The evidence that agriculturalists had it VERY rough is everywhere. Look out your window.

In general, as evidence has shown, they did have a better system. They had it no differently than a lion has it. I’m sure lions have rough days.

actually, and that a line between hunter-gatherer and 'agriculturalist' is pretty nonexistent.

The lines between hunter-gatherer agriculturalist are VERY existent. The lines between hunter-gatherer and horticulturalist can seem blurry.

There is a gulfing difference between Agriculture and Horticulture. For a great article on the differences between these two practices see:

Yes, people make mistakes, even hunter-gatherers. That doesn’t change all the evidence that points to them having a better life… and even if we ignore all of the evidence, we can still see that at the very least, they didn’t cause a world wide ecological dieoff. That act alone should be enough for anyone to see that they had a better system of subsistence. Despite the NW coast small-scale heirarchy, they still improved the environment over all. The columbia river natives lived there for over 8,000 years without destroying it. After 10,000 years civilization has destroyed this planet. Looking at that simple fact alone I can safely say that despite “war” and “slavery” the NW coast indians still had a better system than civilization. No one is infalable, but the hunter-gatherer system is better than civilization overall. Unless you think deforestation as a way of life is better.

fleas and parasites for chronic diseases and cancers, harder work in the fields to keep more children alive during tough times.

That’s not the case. Agriculture makes things worse during tough times because it creates an artificially inflated population above the natural carrying capacity of the land. When a drought occurs, so does famine. Famines are extremely rare among hunter-gatherers. Also, the life-span of agriculturalists drop dramatically from that of hunter-gatherers, who if they make it past infancy will live generally long lives.

At that point, your garden, Crash, will suddenly be very popular with rewilders.

They already are. Again, there is a very big difference between horticulture and agriculture. One method grows biodiverse forests, the other clear-cuts them into deserts.

If we want a life that works after the collapse, than we need to study why civilization does not work, and what ways do work. To ignore the very defined lines between agriculture and hunting and gathering destroys any kind of understanding of why one system works and another does not.


Part of what you said cuts right to it. For me, at least, rewilding is about learning to meet my needs (food/water/shelter/fire/companionship/uh, internet) in ways that don’t require enslavement (my own or others) and that leave the world in at least as good, if not better, condition than I found it. The “wild” part is because “wild” people had that kind of a life. That is the “wildness” I want to emulate, not any specific technology or social structure.


In a book I read written by a concentration camp survivor he said something about how foreign the idea of sex was, as if it was not even a real thing. In a crash, getting along with folks is going to be secondary to getting food in your mouth.

I too, and partially based on limited experience, believe most primitive peoples lived a feast and famine existence, and I challenge anybody to show me a primitive skills school that goes longer than 3 days without bringing in their own food. I believe agriculture to be an extension of security just as much as keeping raiders from ones gathering territories. I know we get hung up on definitions here, in fact that’s how I met Scout, discussing all this.

Talk is cheap and we can all do it. What matters is the walk. Where does your food, fire, shelter, and water come from? If you really believe in a crash, which I do, then what are you doing to prepare for this, sit around and discuss it with your friends?

Kiliii is right, people are going to come here because they know I have skills and food storage and am fairly well armed with small caliber weapons that are light and maneuverable. When power went out here a while back for 14 hours people came here because they knew I had beeswax so I must have candles, which I do. When the shit hits the fan I won’t be here just because so many people have told me “if the shit hits the fan we’re coming to your house”.

Make caches in 1 day walks from your home and extend those in a direction of safety, each 1 day further than the others. I’m so off topic but at least I started on topic!!

Crash is a name I’ve used for many years Kiliii, just in limited circles….

getting along with folks is going to be secondary to getting food in your mouth.

Ah, but getting along with folks is key to getting food in your mouth. Who will help you? How will you defend yourself? With just a gun? One gun against a hundred people seems hardly likely to work. Well-organized teams work much better… I mean, isn’t that why we evolved to live together? Cooperation makes life easier.

I know we get hung up on definitions here,

It may sound like that, but its about articulating ways that work vs. ways that don’t. Being able to distinguish between Agriculture and Horticulture is like being able to distinguish between Queen Annes Lace and Poison Hemlock. One is nourishing, the other is poisonous.

sit around and discuss it with your friends?

Haha… um… Yeah! And also work on the skills, and also plant gardens and also whatever. To make sure we survive, not just as a group, but as a people, I work to spread the knowledge of working systems to people… to me that’s what rewilding is. Switching from a civilized system to a wild one. That will take a looooooong time as long as Civ exists, but as soon as collapse starts, more and more people will seek systems that work. Some may not find them and die. Some may discover them without any previous knowledge. Some may have the previous knowledge. The point for me is to learn what systems work and those that don’t so that when collapse happens, I’ll know what the best strategy is. If I see people cutting down forests to grow food, I’ll know they made an error in choosing a working system.

Caches are good, but I think most people won’t make it out to you in time; most people will stay at home and believe that the crash is temporary (except maybe me! Hope you got an extra bunk!) By then it will be too late I think. Maybe not. I’m not saying I’ll never make caches or anything. I need to get going on that.


If you want to know what it’s like to be a hunter gatherer, practice being able to function at your everyday work without eating for three or four days. Seriously.

Kiliii, I’m really enjoying your posts.


Well, what about large game? I mean, I see two spectrums, one of constant gorging and fasting, and then the other of a usually quite satisfying diet, with a few rough spots during the year. But knowing these, perhaps one could prepare for.


Do I have to go to work? Can I go for three or four days without food at home, instead? Honestly all I do at work is sit on my ass. If I didn’t drug myself with caffeine I’d fall asleep.


Sounds like a lot like doing without doing Andrew. I’m not sure that’s really allowed. Let me check the rule book.

I’ve heard it said that some aboriginal peoples did a whole lot of sitting around because you don’t use up as much calories, causing a need, in just hanging out.

Scout – Yeah, I get it and my people skills generally result in “I can’t stand him.” To “I think he’s amazing.” With the later having the fewer adherents.

My limited time in the bush did show me that being a good provider works fairly well in mate selection among neo-primitives who are cold and hungry enough. In my experience talk gets cheap way fast. I’ve also yet to see a social structure, be that friends who did primitive skills, the social structure at the Rabbit Stick, or even the social structure of the US that doesn’t have some leader of whatever qualities who ran the operation. Take that one person out and what do you have?

Social structure is needed, in fact necessary for individual survival. We as modern Americans don’t do it well because we want it all and we want it now at whatever costs; our children, our time on this earth, our lovers, our egos all up for sale for what we want and think is best. Tribal people worked because they were related. You don’t fuck your cousin’s wife…unless he wants you to. As has been seen by the many attempts with communes the real story boils down to who sleeps with whom?

So, while I admittedly need to work on my social skills, people who are in need are going to be very easy to work with, and what I have stored in my head should be its own currency in such an environment of need and knowledge. So I grow food, tan hides, work on an ambulance occasionally, study, practice, and wait………


How about practicing being able to clearly think things through or problem solve while also dealing with extreme discomfort, hunger or stress.

Or maybe practice being kind to others, being able to take others needs or points of view into consideration, being able to compromise and come to consensus decisions while also dealing with not having eaten for a couple of days or being very cold and wet or possibly being in danger.

These are all things that real life hunter gatherers have to deal with.
Are these the other kind of “primitive skills” ya’ll are talking about?

Hunter gatherers have to move a lot. Sure you can stock up on stuff if you’re staying in one spot. But that’s not what purist, hunter gatherers who have defined themselves into a dogmatic pigeon hole do. That’s what farmers do. If you stay in one spot you will use up the resources unless you modify your environment to produce more of the things you need.

When you are on the move there is always the risk that when you get to the berry picking grounds you find there ain’t none this year, or when you get to the fishing camp you find that the run is late this year or some other band has already claimed the good spots and you get stuck with the shitty spots. Or on route to the elk hunting camp you get stuck in three days of torrential rain and hail and your whole band and all their belongings are thoroughly soaked and people are getting hypothermic because there is no dry wood to get warm and dry all your stuff out.

We are talking about walking everywhere aren’t we. With a band of people including elders women and kids right. Not piling into the minivan.


[quote=“heyvictor, post:30, topic:414”]How about practicing being able to clearly think things through or problem solve while also dealing with extreme discomfort, hunger or stress.

Or maybe practice being kind to others, being able to take others needs or points of view into consideration, being able to compromise and come to consensus decisions while also dealing with not having eaten for a couple of days or being very cold and wet or possibly being in danger. [/quote]

Not to be overly flippant, but sounds a bit like the first couple years of my marriage. :smiley:

[quote=“heyvictor, post:30, topic:414”]These are all things that real life hunter gatherers have to deal with.
Are these the other kind of “primitive skills” ya’ll are talking about?[/quote]

These are definitely in the list, I’d say there’s more there, but this is a good chunk of it.

Actually this is why US brought up the difference between horticulture and agriculture. Modifying your environment is pretty much a given, but that doesn’t equate to agriculture (or being farmers). Illustration: tribes in the Amazon were horticulturalists, with field/crop rotations proceeding on decades long timelines (40-50 years) that built a remarkably fertile soil and diverse ecology, but agriculturalists passing thru, used to food systems degrading soil and removing diversity, just thought it was all “wild” forest. Believe me when I say that we’re not saying we don’t, or that we shouldn’t, manage our environment.


So I must ask jhereg where does your food come from? At this point if your not gathering, hunting, or growing it (or a combination of all that) I don’t see how a person can survivie in todays world without alterting their environment by having it shipped from wherever and that having it shipped is much more altering of their environment than a person growing (organically) what they need to stay alive.


well, i’m growing some, gathering some and buying the rest. i’m not claiming to be eating completely sustainably at this point.

as to environmental modification, my own objection isn’t that it occurs so much as what the effects are. tilling, monocropping, & chemical pesticides/fertilizers are fairly harmful, but there’s many ways to positively impact your enviroment that produces food. certainly the food that i buy that’s transported from far away is harmful, if no other reason than because it uses fossil fuels.

finally, i ain’t accusing you of anything, but it kinda sounds like you think i am :slight_smile:


not meaning to come off that way. I’m getting to know folks and I’m always interested in where the rubber meets the road between ideals/philosophy/belief and between chopping wood and hauling water, as it were.

The bitch about coming to ones truth is that one is then obligated to act responsibly or risk being a hippocrite, which I admittedly am at times…


Haha. Yeah. I spent all day on my moms property today filling in a ditch, hauling sandy-loam, and building boxes for her blueberries. I even ate some of the eggs her (OMG) domesticated chickens laid! I’m such a fucking hypocrite! Haha. They were good eggs (thank you chickens!) I’m slowly convincing my mom and step-dad to let me perma-culture their yard. We’re going to make a yard plan this winter… but first I have to get that greenhouse built next week… order and install rain barrels, build a compost bin and a worm bin… build two more blue-berry boxes… blah blah blah… Also, there’s Willems yard too…


I’m with you on this one, for sure. I think it’s a big part of why I tend to dislike Internet forums-- on a forum you inherently can only really discuss things. There’s so much to do and learn and real people to interact with that forums get old really fast-- unless there’s someone that lives far away whose relationship I value.

There is such an incredible amount of stuff to learn and do, it’s hard for me to imagine ever having more than a moment to catch my breath-- the world is so fascinating and just keeping myself clothed and fed the way I want to be is a fulltime job, no doubt about it.

I just got in touch with Lotta Rahme, and she is sending me her new book on Fishskin tanning which took a while to track down. It’s in swedish, though, so I will have to hire someone to translate it for me, but I don’t care if it costs me $200 to get it translated, I’m sure it is pure gold, and I am definitely looking forward to tanning the 200 salmon skins I have fleshed and dried, sitting in my basement…


cool! i didn’t even know you could tan fish skins.


Great discussion gentlemen. While I don’t feel I currently have a dog in this fight, I’m finding it refreshing to see an ernest debate. I’ve learnt a bit so far just as a spectator observering the thinkers and the doers. I stated in another post I’m more of a student of survivalism who has an intrest in primitive and pre industrial technology. Until recently I overlooked the social aspects. I guess unless I want to die a lonely hermit in some cave, I had better start finding like minded people in my area.


Actually, the most valuable thing I ever learned from rewilding that, when you are trying to create a new way to live in the face of active hostility, being a hypocrit is acceptable. Truth is, most if not all of us are experimenting in what is possible, and we’re trying to find answers, not supply them. Purity is overrated.


Absolutely Andrew.
Very little of what I see people here wanting to do is new. There’s a lot of people that ya’ll could learn from out there. People who may not totally be into your trip but who really know their stuff about the things they are into. They might be folks at Rabbitstick or on PaleoPlanet or at a Rainbow gathering or it might be the local animal control officer or the logger who lives down the street or your redneck deer hunting uncle or the local taxidermist or meat cutter or your grandma who puts away a hundred jars of canned food every year. They may not be “Anarcho-Primitivists” or what ever you call yourselves but they are the salt of the earth and a lot of them would just think it’s pretty freakin cool that a young person would want to learn what they know.
But I have to say that the self-righteous rude boy attitude that I see floatin’ around here would put most of 'em right off.

Man if you went to a meat cutter who cuts wild game this fall, when hunting season is in full swing and said, “I want to learn what you know, I’ll do what ever you want me to do so I can learn how to skin and cut meat.” Most of them around here would think it was great. They might not be on the same wavelength as you when it comes to socio-political discourse but in the month or two of deer season you would really learn how it’s done. Way better than spending the same amount of time on an internet forum. And they’d probably turn you on to a bunch of wild meat and hides if you want 'em.
At the end of it all, spending time with those people, if you were open to it, you would learn a lot about all kinds of people and how we are really all the same instead of the divisive, us and them thing that people like George Bush loves to create and foster.