Dear Students and Families,
Perhaps you can already feel the sensation of the cold Lake Superior water washing over your sandy feet? The smell of wet earth and ripe fruit carried on a gentle breeze through dense forest, or the sense of awe evoked by an open sky of dazzling stars? Soon, these memories will be imprinted on your story for the rest of your days.
So many of us have spent the better part of this past year confined to indoor spaces, living life mediated by a flat screen and without the touch of human contact, or the opportunity to explore and experience the world directly. We are so glad that you are coming to spend the month of July with us up on the “Big Lake”. We have no doubt that the crystal clear waters, warm summer rains, and fresh wild berries will reawaken your senses and remind us all who we really are. So thank you for taking on this adventure, and embracing the unknown.
As you begin to prepare for your summer on Lake Superior, I invite you to use this space, the Yak page, to begin to build community with your instructors and fellow students and voice any questions or concerns you may have. Both in the pre-course process and during course this will be an important venue for getting to know each other, sharing information, and then translating your journey to friends and family back home. In the coming days and weeks, discussions will begin to build and your instructors will offer advice for course preparation regarding packing, recommended readings, the itinerary, and other tips to help you feel prepared for our time here.
Your instructors for this summer are incredible! Collectively, they bring many years of experience as seasoned guides and educators, and as you will discover over the course of your journey, are some of the most thoughtful, kind, and inspiring folks in our community. Soon your instructors will be introducing themselves here and we encourage you to do the same. And beyond your instructors there awaits a long list of local guides and mentors, eager to share with you their work as farmers, artisans, an community organizers.
Dragons prefers to keep our hands in the dirt, allowing us to sculpt courses that represent our unique goals of profound cross-cultural learning and self-cultivation. When it’s all said and done, and you finally gather in early July at your course’s point of departure, you should know that you are about to embark on an adventure that is intensely personalized and has been many months, and in many cases, years in the making!
The Yak board is the most appropriate place to address your pre-course questions and concerns. We hope that you will discover the potential of this forum (have a look at past courses to get a sense of how this venue can be used), and learn to love it! It’s a powerful tool for communication and community building, and once you head into the field, it will undoubtedly become the default homepage of your parents and friends at home – all of those who WISH they could be out there with you!
Lake Superior and the surrounding watersheds make up a vast and sparsely populated borderlands. I’ll never forget seeing a National Geographic article years ago that showed the impact of humans on the waterways of North America. While most of the East and West Coasts, as well as the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River were red and yellow, the Lake Superior region was all blues and greens. But this area, in spite of its beauty and apparent pristine nature, is also also deeply impacted by logging, mining, fishing, and settler colonialism. Throughout our exploration, we’ll continuously come back to the question, “What is the right way to live on the land?”
The Apostle Islands of Lake Superior have long been the spiritual hub and continues to be the modern day home of the Anishinaabe people, and more specifically the Lake Superior Ojibwe, also referred to as Chippewa. On the shores of the Chequamegon Bay, where we will spend most of our time, there are two Bands of Lake Superior Ojibwe: Red Cliff, and Bad River. Over the past two centuries settler communities have also been drawn to the Lake Superior region, initially to trade, then to harvest, and more recently to reconnect and reimagine an alternative relationship to the earth. As we cultivate our own connections to the land, we will share in the work and hear the stories of those who host us, and learn more about the many ways that people live on the land.
This area, and the theme of this course holds particular meaning to me. I was born here in the house that my parents built from the rocks and trees on site. As a young boy, I played in the dustballs under my Mother’s loom, and followed my Dad out into the forest to collect firewood. Later in life, I struck out into the world to connect with communities abroad whose land ethics and relations offered alternatives to dominant consumer culture. This led to a career with Dragons, where I have worked since 2007 as an instructor in Central America, Latin America and Africa Program Director, and Director of Partnerships. In many ways, this course brings it all full circle, back to the place where experiential and global education first took root. I will be here with you through your experience this summer. Although I will not be with the group on a daily basis, I will be in and out, and am excited to share many of my favorite people and places here.
A magical world awaits you; a world of endless beauty and adventure, of life-long friendships and personal discovery, of healers and ceremony, forests and laughter, of and profound questions. This world awaits you, but it is also a journey of your own making. I want to encourage you to make the most of this dazzling opportunity. Your time on course will be both a gift and a challenge. It is my hope that each of us may embrace this gift with humility and gratitude, with an open heart and eager mind, and with intentionality for a powerful and successful experience. I assure you, you will not regret it.
My warmest welcome,
Simon Hart, Lake Superior Program Director