Who Are We?

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 our annual spring workshop, Between the Rivers Gathering.  We also participate in demonstrations for the local schools & special groups, and workshops in historic skills for the community, and teach workshops at primitive skills gatherings and living history events whenever we are able.  Currently all of our work is volunteer.

 

Fundamental Beliefs:

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.

 

Current Activities:

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 have also done classroom presentations in our local schools to help the children to connect to those who have come before them in experiential ways.  We offer scholarships to local school students for Between the Rivers Gathering, and we also offer field trip opportunities for some of our local school classes.

-          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, were considered a highlight, and that they were able to draw from what they learned 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 skilled

 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 blade smithing

·         Kayak building

·         Basketry

·         Hide tanning

·         Spinning felting

·         Natural cordage and fibers

·         Traps and snares

·         Plant walk/wild foods walk

·         Herbal medicine

·         Preparedness

·         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 beginning in May 2013 to present

o   Hosting the North Columbia Knap-In in October for three years at the Kettle Falls Historic Center, Kettle Falls, WA.

o   Farmer’s Market Participation

§  We have partnered in the past 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 have included:

·         Spokane Highland Games

·         Rabbitstick Rendezvous each September in Southeast Idaho

·         Pacific Primitives Rendezvous in the NW each June

·         Assorted other Primitive Skills Gatherings around the west

·         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 campus that will create additional opportunities for workshops, classes, presentations, and immersion experiences in the old ways of life.  We would like to offer extended skills courses in wilderness living, internships and apprenticeships in ancestral skills, and space for makers to be able to expand their skills.  There are people practicing ancestral skills and involved in the same work as we are around the globe, and we would like to network with them, visit, teach, and have them bring their rich traditions to Northeastern Washington State to share with us.


Expanded Opportunities for Education are also desired

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 through immersion courses and camps

·         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.

 
 
 


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