Traditional Indigenous Wisdom: An Introduction to Learning Survival Skills in the Utah Wilderness
The town of Boulder (6,700’) is nestled up on the flanks of Boulder Mountain (11,316’) to the west of Capitol Reef National Park and just north of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in the vast south-central Utah sandstone canyons and mesas. Boulder is also the base camp for the Boulder Outdoor Survival School (BOSS, https://www.boss-inc.com) that was founded in 1968, and is the oldest and largest traditional living skills/survival school in the world.
This is not one of the Navy Seal style survival schools that focus on the BATTLE for survival in order to dominate the challenges faced. BOSS embodies the indigenous wisdom ethos, and brings people back into sacred connection with the land and awareness of the natural resources that our technological society has pillaged in the name of growth and progress. The school teaches the native wisdom of seeking balance and harmony with the land and its cycles, and participants are shown how profound living lightly while travelling great distances can be.
Leave-no-trace practices are taken to the extreme: not only is it necessary to leave no trace on the land, but also to think about how all the metals, plastics, and constituents in one’s gear were mined or manufactured and to acknowledge their environmental impact. All daily practices are integrated into natural rhythms to the greatest degree that is possible (e.g. in the morning, the coals from the previous night’s cooking fire are ground up and sprinkled into the vegetation with any ash in order to leave no trace of a fire, while also fertilizing and supporting the life in the area).
In July and August of 2011, I experienced BOSS’s 28-day Field Course (https://www.boss-inc.com/course_28-day-field_56.html), which is their foundation course that explores the many skills needed to survive by ‘knowing more and carrying less.’ This school does not allow flashlights, watches, tents, backpacks, sleeping bags, or sleeping pads. Instead, we used only some lower tech counterparts like a wool blanket (also doubles as a backpack with everything rolled in it and tied together), rain poncho, and natural materials from the land.
This trip had a profound impact on me, and has continued to work on me over these past two years. Even though many past trips and treks into the wilderness have allowed me to build an intimate relationship with Gaia, our mother Earth, this BOSS experience greatly deepened this connection and recharged my soul. Learning to exist both resiliently and harmoniously in the difficult desert and alpine environments of Utah stirred my dreams of a more sustainable future for humanity. By honoring native wisdom and integrating it into our present global predicament, we can aspire to create a better future.
By the time this posts, I’ll be immersed in the BOSS Hunter Gatherer course in Utah (https://www.boss-inc.com/course_hunter-gatherer_68.html). I have practiced my skills these past two years and have created many chances to deepen my Earth connection. I am infinitely excited to return to this amazing school and its beautiful instructors, and to broaden my knowledge of sustainable survival skills. When I return I will write a more in-depth account of the first BOSS 28-day course, the newly completed Hunter Gatherer course, and their impact on my being and soul. By sharing knowledge from my ongoing learning process, I hope to provide you with some of the tools necessary to walk this path of sustainability and lightness upon the Earth.
I look forward to sharing more experiences of my journey into indigenous wisdom when I return in September. Much love to you all, my brothers and sisters. In the Light and Love of our infinite Creator, I invite you to sit quietly outside somewhere and breathe in the Life that is all around us. In Lak’ech Ala K’in.
Peace, Love, and Happy Hiking.