Bridges to the Past is a non-profit organization dedicated to education and preservation of our shared human history through the skills of our ancestors. We founded in late 2008, and we were awarded our status as a 501(c)(3) public charity in 2010 which has enabled us to raise funds in earnest to introduce people to our shared human history and allow them opportunities to connect to their past through interactive demonstrations, classes in historic skills, and educational activities.
We are based in rural northeastern Washington State near the town of Chewelah, and currently focus our efforts on demonstrations for the local schools & special groups, and workshops in historic skills for the community. We also teach workshops at primitive skills gatherings and at living history events whenever we are able. Currently all of our work is volunteer.
The work we do at Bridges to the Past is based on several principles that we hold dear:
- All peoples of the globe have a rich cultural heritage, and a shared history. Modern cultures have often forgotten their roots. Education on cultural heritage is important for people to rediscover who they are.
- All peoples, if traced back, were at one time living close to the earth and local resources. They were hunters, gatherers, herdsmen & planters. They lived each year by using their natural resources in such a way that they would be available in the coming year; in other words, sustainability was the rule, not the exception.
- There is enough and to spare: the world has plenty of resources, and if used properly this world has more than enough to support its enormous population in sustainable ways.
- Given similar environments & materials, peoples around the globe from each other will solve their problems of daily living in similar or identical ways. We are humans & we think like humans. We are all more similar than we are different. Examples of this can be seen in woodland regions such as Iron-age Britain & North American Woodlands Cultures, Mongolian Herdsman on the Steppes & Native American Plains Tribes, and Coastal cultures of the Northwest American Continent & the Ancient Vikings. Their methods of everyday life were not that different from each other.
- The industrial revolution, while providing many modern conveniences, has created an unprecedented level of resource depletion on this planet. People have adopted attitudes that everything is disposable, and that resource stripping is acceptable if the appetite for goods is present. These practices and attitudes can and will lead to our demise. Unless people learn to return to ancestral ways of thought and action we will see increased industrialization & urbanization and continued destruction of agricultural land. People need to relearn to think small-scale, local and sustainable, just as our ancestors did.
- People are hard-wired to connect to ancient skills. It is part of who we are. Through teaching the skills of our ancestors we have been able to observe people as they learn to make fire by friction, tan animal skins, make baskets, gather food in the wild, grow food at home, and much more. They come alive, their eyes sparkle, and they express childlike joy at the rediscovery of their ancient ways.
- Our natural environment is not indoors; it’s outside, and we belong there. The things we teach help people to regain comfort with themselves and the outdoors and gain confidence in being outside.
- Hands-on is paramount: static displays are fine, but people connect when they can get involved and do something, especially something different. They must get their hands dirty to really learn and connect.
What we are NOT:
Sometimes it is important to draw distinctions:
- Bridges to the Past is not a survival school. There are plenty of survival schools doing a good job of educating people for trying times and preparing for ‘what if.’ We applaud them. We are not in the same business. Survival implies a level of duress, while living implies a level of comfort. We teach living.
- We are not Doomsayers. We do believe that things are changing and that changes are required in the way we live, but what we do is not based on fear of cataclysmic events. Fear is unproductive. We prefer faith and hard work.
- We are not a nature awareness school. Awareness is great, and is often the first step in a process. What we do goes many steps beyond awareness; it requires action, conviction and involvement. We help people to gain perspective of who they are and where they have come from, and then empower them to deliberately move forward into their futures.
We have big dreams, and big dreams take time. Currently, the work we are doing to fulfill our mission is a focus on teaching workshops in Historic Skills in the community, and at large when we are able to travel, and we also do classroom presentations in our local schools to help the children to connect to those who have come before them in experiential ways. We have been maintaining a website to aid in marketing and to document our activities, and we have been participating in social marketing to expand our reach.
- School Presentations
o We believe strongly in helping the local schools and providing opportunities for the students to broaden their perspective of the world we live in. We have provided demonstrations for school classrooms focusing on areas of history that aligns with teaching requirements for several age groups. We bring history to life in the following ways:
§ Bringing actual or reproduction items into the classroom for students to see, feel & touch
§ Hands-on activities
§ Supplemental support materials the teachers can use after we are gone
o Some of our activities in schools have included:
§ Loon Lake Rendezvous living history day – Western Fur Trade
§ Valley Multi-school district Rendezvous living history day
§ Wool spinning and baby sheep at Head Start
§ American Colonial Times at Valley 5th Grade, and 5th grade in Chewelah (several times)
§ Diversity among Native Americans in Chewelah Schools 3rd grade classes
§ Washington Native Americans in Chewelah 7th & 8th grade classes (several times)
§ Skills Classes for local home-school students
§ Feedback from the teachers indicated that our presentations were impactful to the students, considered a highlight, and that they were able to draw from them all year long.
- Community Workshops & Demonstrations
o Historic Skills Workshops
§ Community classes allow us to work with people one on one to increase their skills and awareness of their culture, heritage and the outdoors. We offer a wide range of subjects from different cultures around the globe. Bridges personnel have taught many of these classes, but we also bring in skill
ed instructors from other locations. We have been able to draw students from our local area and Spokane, and have had students travel from as far away as Canada and Montana.
Class subjects have included:
· Blacksmithing and bladesmithing
· Kayak building
· Hide tanning
· Spinning felting
· Natural cordage and fibers
· Traps and snares
· Plant walk/wild foods walk
· Herbal medicine
· And much more!
· Some of these workshops travel to locations at events, gatherings and private locations by request if situations allow.
o Hosting Between the Rivers Primitive Skills Gathering in May 2013
o Hosting the North Columbia Knap-In in October 2012 at the Kettle Falls Historic Center, Kettle Falls, WA.
o Farmer’s Market Participation
§ We have partnered with the Chewelah Farmer’s Market because many of our goals are aligned. We provide educational opportunities at the market by offering a large range of demonstrations and classes.
o Other Events
§ We like to contribute to events that have the same or similar focus as we do that are beyond our community. This also allows us to network and build awareness of what we are doing, and to learn new things to bring back to share in our community. These events include:
· Spokane Highland Games
· Rabbitstick Rendezvous each September in Southeast Idaho
· Pacific Primitives Rendezvous in the NW each June
· Assorted Primitive Skills Gatherings
· Woodsmoke Re-encampment and Bushcraft Symposium(Rabbitstick Rendezvous 2011 - Spinning and Wool Processing Class)
Plans for the Future: the Expanded Vision:
Bridges to the Past plans to grow. We look forward to the day when we are able to purchase property and build a living history center that will create additional opportunities.
- Living History Center
o Bridges plans to purchase 50 to 100 acres of land to build a living history center – basically a living museum. This was the original concept and dream when we started, and that dream has not dimmed. This center will be our flagship and will have full-time staff, facilities, offices, interns, permanent displays & the works! There has been a rise in living history centers and an increase in learning about the past by experiential means. We plan to be a part of this, however, we have a different take on things:
§ Most museums and centers focus on one group of people at one specific time period and show how that group is different from everyone else. We wish to focus on many different groups of people at similar developmental periods. Our aim is to demonstrate the similarities between different groups of people and show that we have more in common than we are different. Given similar bio regions and similar resources, peoples will develop similar material cultures, even if they are separated by oceans.
§ We plan to separate the museum land into different bio regions enabling us to recreate different material cultures: desert, steppes/grasslands, woodlands, coastal. Then we will build structures & communities from the late stone-age & early metal age that represent cultures from those regions that are separated by oceans. These similar cultures will be juxtaposed so people can observe the similarities. For example: Woodlands region will have an Eastern Native American village and a British Iron-age village next to each other. Staff personnel will be present, dressed in clothing from that time, participating in traditional activities from each culture to illuminate life as it was. People will be free to walk through, see, feel and touch the living exhibit, and in some cases, get involved in activities.
§ When classes are taught in Historic Skills classes will take place in the environment that the specific skill came from. For example: blacksmithing would take place in the Iron-age village and use historically correct equipment whenever possible.
§ This center would be open to the public, schools and groups for learning opportunities ranging from observation of the general goings-on to special classes and custom programs.
§ Permanent museum displays will also demonstrate similarities between different cultures. For example: a world primitive archery display would show bows, arrows, quivers and other archery equipment from around the globe from peoples in similar developmental periods. Static displays will also have interactive components where participants can try out replicas (under supervision) of some of the displayed items.
§ The center will host traditional cultural presentations from diverse cultures and performers whenever possible such as Native storytellers, Native folk musicians, folk dance troupes, etc.
§ The center will also allow internship opportunities for people (likely college-age) who would like to learn historic ways of life to come and live in an immersion environment. While with us they would live at the center, keep the traditional gardens and livestock, learn old trades, and demonstrate and teach these things to others.
- Expanded Opportunities for Education
o Local Schools
§ We are seeing that we are making an impact and we see that there could be so much more. With more manpower and resources we could do the following:
· Provide an expanded list of demonstration subjects for classrooms
· Introduce students to outdoor living experiences in the present
· Expand our range to schools and classrooms outside of our immediate area
· Provide assemblies for schools at large
o Educating the Educators
§ If we develop classes to teach the teachers they can in turn impact a larger number of students when they incorporate activities into their classrooms.
§ We can enable teachers to earn ‘clock hours’ for certification while increasing their level of competency in hands-on history.
o College Collaborations
§ We eventually would like to provide opportunities in experimental archeology for college students through our living history center.
Board of Directors:
Bridges to the Past is run by a board of dedicated individuals with a diverse skill set and a shared interest in our core values. We are a working board. Everyone does a part to keep things moving forward. Here are some introductions:
Kamber Farneman - President of the Board
has been involved in historical encampments and reenacting since she was very young. She has been teaching at workshops and primitive skills gatherings for over 15 years. She earned an Associate’s Degree in Arts from Dixie College in 1999 and is proficient in painting and printmaking. She is skilled in fiber arts including spinning, felting, cording and weaving, and has much experience in ancient arts using stone, clay, leather, natural pigments and much more. She has been an instructor in Primitive Living Skills since 1997 for Backtracks, LLC. at annual international conferences. She has been an instructor in skills courses for Boulder Outdoor Survival School in fiber arts. Kamber has 13 years’ experience as a small farm owner with experience in gardening & animal husbandry, 10 years teaching ancestral skills in public schools & working as a volunteer teacher’s aide in the classroom, and 30+ years participating in historical reenactments & living history. She has also spent 13 years as historical clothing seamstress as a cottage industry, and 4 years working as a volunteer Leader of Young Women’s group in the LDS Church. Kamber currently works as a para-educator at Jenkins Middle School, Chewelah School District, Chewelah, WA.
Kenny Rindlisbacher - VP of the Board
Kenny holds a Master’s degree in Educational Technology from City University in Bellvue, WA, and has a Bachelor’s of Art in K-8 Elementary Education and has a Spanish Minor. He is fluent in Spanish from having spent 2 years in Argentina on a full-time mission for his church. He also has 6 years’ experience as an English Translator. He has spent 20 years as an adult volunteer with the Boy Scouts of America and is an Eagle Scout. He has helped create and maintain the Elementary School Website where he teaches 5th grade. Kenny has much education and training in using internet technology, is a website technician, and has created and edited movies for classroom and internet use. He has 20 years teaching experience in K-8 schools in Washington and in Utah, and has training in multiple intelligences. As a youth, Kenny gained 8 years’ experience in dry land farming, and has been a home gardener for many years. He has spent the last few years learning and practicing primitive skills. Kenny currently works as a 5th grade school teacher at Valley School District in Valley, WA.
Patrick Farneman - Board Secretary
Patrick's formal education consists of an Associate of Science from Dixie College, a Bachelor of Art from Southern Utah University, and a Masters of Social Work from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. In his mid-twenties he worked for several years with teens in a wilderness setting which helped him to hone many of his outdoor skills and his people skills. Since then he has worked as a school teacher for troubled Native youth, assistant school administrator, and as a therapist & social worker for the Spokane Tribe of Indians. Work experience includes time in the private sector, non-profit corporations and Tribal entities. In every job he has found ways to incorporate the teaching of universal ancestral skills; his first love. Patrick has been practicing ancestral skills for nearly 30 years, and has been teaching them at workshops and international gatherings for over 15 years. He is proficient with many skills and crafts including pottery, hide tanning & rawhide, stone, bone and wood working, metal working and bladesmithing, simple basketry, watercraft, and fiber arts. He has a deep love for his family, the outdoors & the environment, and a thirst for adventure.
grew up and graduated from high school in Soda Springs, Idaho. She has been involved in living history for 36 years and has experience participating in, founding, and organizing mountain man rendezvous and reenactments. She has an extreme interest in history, reenacting & replicating the skills and items of the early 1800s. She has been involved in the creation of many replica and reproduction items from history for trade and sale over the years. LeAnn furnished many items and helped in staging of the inside of the Fort Hall Replica Living History Museum in Pocatello, ID. Professionally she has worked for 25 years as a professional driver for schools and Head Start and had been involved in helping in the classroom and with families. She has demonstrated ancestral living skills at the Festival of the American West in Logan, UT, and has been a teacher for Community Education classes in various crafts and old skills, and has been involved in craft shows, consignment stores and holiday festivals for 30 years. LeAnn currently drives school bus for Valley School District, Valley, WA.
earned her high school diploma from Colville High School and studied at Utah State University for 1 year in general studies with an emphasis in Art and Deaf Education. She has had classes in Art, Photography and Computers. Laura spent 2 summers working as a high school intern at Stevens County Public Works doing office work. She has home schooled her children for the past 8 years and has much home gardening and self-sufficiency experience. Laura learned much about self-sufficient living and back to basics through personal experience growing up in a cabin without modern amenities. She has 20 years teaching children in a church setting, and has 20 years experience with home canning and food preservation.
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