“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect. There is no other way for land to survive the impact of mechanized man, nor for us to reap from it the esthetic harvest it is capable, under science, of contributing to culture.”
-Aldo Leopold, excerpt from “A Sand County Almanac”
This program is designed to bring us into deeper relationship with the rivers, forests, and lakes of Western Lake Superior through an intentional progression of skill-building, immersion, and expeditions. Along the way, we engage with community members who represent diverse voices of the land, speaking from different cultural identities, and histories. Through storytelling and exploration, we will learn of the many ways that humans inhabit this earth, and as we reflect and dialog within our group, we also continue to thread the narrative of our own story. Most importantly, after an arduous winter and pandemic year, we will soak up the richness of a Northwoods summer, playing in the water, eating over a fire and gazing at the stars. We’ll get bug bitten, rain-soaked, and sun kissed, and be all the better for it.
Part 1, June 5-8: Orientation and Skill-Building at Potter’s Farm
Everyone has been asked to arrive into MSP by 1 pm, and Liam, Jac and Simon will be there to great you. We’ll gather our new family and head to a nearby park where we can orient ourselves by the Mississippi River and the history of this important gateway to the wild Northland. We’ll drive four hours through dense forest up to the “Big Lake” and land at Potter’s Farm, our main base and nexus for the course. Potter’s farm will hold our group at the beginning, middle, and end of our time together. It will be our only chance at sleeping in beds, and using a hot shower. The 41 acre traditional homestead has been converted to an intentional retreat space for rejuvenation and reconnection, a perfect match for the goals of our first few days together. With home-cooked meals, and plenty of space to spread out, the farm acts as a container for us to build a healthy group culture, introduce important health and safety guidelines, and begin to foray out into the community and lands beyond. Each day, we will begin with a morning group meeting intended to set the tone and frame the day, and on Day 1 we will head to Frog Bay Tribal National Park (the only Tribal National Park in the country) to acknowledge the land on which we travel, and place intentions for a safe journey ahead.
Part 2, June 9-15: Skill-Building and Practicing with Mashkiiziibii (Bad River Tribe)
On day five, we’ll travel south about twenty five miles to the Bad River Reservation and settle into our first camping experience. This first round of camping will be vehicle accessible, and give us a chance to break in our gear, and to get our systems up and running. By this time in the course, our individual “roles of the day” will come into focus. Each day, we’ll have individuals and small teams managing food, water, and group gear. We will become more familiar with the Lake and her temperaments, and find a daily rhythm that allows us to settle into place and connect with the people and the landscape of Bad River. We’ll spend our six days working with April Stone, an honored artisan and keeper of the Black Ash basketweaving tradition. With April, we will walk in the forest to select and harvest a live tree, processing it down over the next five days into a handwoven basket of our own making. Along the way, we’ll share stories, jokes, and the slow time of handmade crafts. We’ll also work with Pete Halfaday, whose grandfather established the piece of land for the exchange of culture and stories upon which we will camp. Pete is an “Indigenous Chef” and works to revitalize the food sovereignty of the Bad River Tribe, as well as bring attention to our local diet. With Pete we will earn about venison, fish, wild rice, and other wild harvested foods. We’ll also get the chance to cook and eat with Pete for the duration of our stay. If we’re lucky, we’ll connect with the Bad River Youth Association for a game of LaCross, and some hikes into the woods to identify medicinal plants.
Part 3, June 16-21: Practicing on the Bayfield Peninsula with Diaspora and The Draw
Heading North from Bad River, we’ll wind our way out over the water to Madeline Island by ferry and meet up with the owner of Diaspora Farm. The Island will be our first stop in a series of visits to farms, logging, and fishing operations to learn more about resource management and land stewardship. Along the way, we’ll be hosted by farmers, camping in their fields, and sharing in the sounds, smells, and rhythms of small homestead farms. By now, our group will be a well-oiled machine, able to move through our daily rhythm of gear management and food prep efficiently. Each day, we’ll begin with our morning group meeting, followed by chores and skills related to food systems. In the afternoon, we’ll head out on myriad explorations deeper into the beaches and forests. Heading back to the mainland, and out to the Town of Russell on the northernmost tip of the Bayfield Peninsula we connect with Nat and Shyam, founders of “The Draw” a permaculture sanctuary, plant nursery, and homestead. During this segment we will also connect with the Red Cliff Tribal Fishery, and the Bayfield County Forestry office, getting our hands fishy, and learning about logging practices and forest management first-hand. Our last night will be spent back at Potter’s farm, organizing food and gear for our departure into the Islands.
Part 4, June 22-27: Expedition: Wilderness Kayaking in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Our journey culminates in a six-day paddle across the sacred surface of the largest lake in the world. Lake Superior is a dazzling gem, a frightful torrent, and a calming spirit of many faces. We will get to know them well, and if with any luck, in late July, we’ll be enjoying some of her more welcoming and warm moods. Working with local outfitter Lost Creek Adventures, we’ll paddle each day for several hours, camping on Sand, Rocky, and Oak Islands, exploring the trails, beaches and cliffs along the way. By this point in the course, students will be doing the group and gear management, and learn to navigate, and manage an expedition on the water.
Part 5, June 28-30: Transference at Potter’s Farm
Transference is a time for us to dry out from our paddle, relive the voices of the many stories we’ve heard, slow down and soak it all up. It’s a time to acknowledge each other, and the journey we’re now completing, and prepare for the return home. Once again, we fall back into our base at Potter’s farm, find solace in the familiar, and work together on a final service project for the farm. The once foreign faces of our newfound family will now be all too familiar, and the once foreign taste of wild rice, berries and white fish welcome on our tongues.