The Maine Primitive Skills School is an intentionally small learning facility with a mission to provide quality instructor level courses in primitive skills, bushcraft, wilderness survival, self reliance, permaculture design, and outdoor education with emphasis on learning and teaching in the out of doors, specializing in ancient skills that develop awareness and sufficiency with a focus on individuals, community interactions, and the environment.
The Maine Primitive Skills School started as “The Good Earth School” in 1989 at the University of Maine in Orono. Courses were held on survival, tracking, and awareness. In 1993, the school relocated to Augusta, Maine. The curriculum was expanded with new instructors, and The Good Earth School incorporated as a non-profit in 1995. Many programs were developed and taught at schools, camps, and businesses such as L.L. Bean, Barnes & Noble, the Maine Conservation School, and Boy Scouts of America. In 1998, with an expanded audience to include military survival instructors as well as students from a local environmental college, the name was changed to reflect the broader demographic.
In 1998 the Maine Primitive Skills School was founded. In 2003 facilities were upgraded and advanced students became staff. The Maine Primitive Skills School now includes students and instructors as well as volunteers, assistant instructors, administrators, apprentices, and elders. We continue to to grow by developing self reliant individuals in to resilient communities. We rely on this sense of community for our success and would like to thank everyone who has been, and will be, a part the Maine Primitive Skills School family.
We must honor and recognize all those that have come before us. It is also important to remember the lineage that has directly given us the tools we use to further our vision.
We must first recognize the Apache. Through their expertise as trackers, survivalists and scouts, the Apache have influenced the world with their skills. Without them we would not have received the many teachings manifested through Lord Baden Powell’s Boy Scouting, Tom Brown’s Tracker School, David Scott-Donlan’s Tactical Tracking Operations School, Jon Young’s Wilderness Awareness School, and Saponkniona Whitefeather’s teachings.
The Akamba of Africa have given us many gifts through Ingwe who brought rights of passage ceremony and cultural traits of a tracking community to the Wilderness Awareness School. We honor the Iroquois for the Thanksgiving Address, the Peacemaker Principles, and the Eight Shields model brought to us by Jon Young, and Jake and Judy Swamp of the Tree of Peace Society.
The Lakota people through Tony Ten Fingers and Gilbert Walking Bull have our respect for giving us the traits of a whole human being and many sacred teachings about the importance of ceremony. Thanks to Paul Raphael and the Odawa for the Sacred Fire ceremony and it’s wisdom. The Hiada, Cherokee, Wampanoag, and Abenaki have given us countless skills, from baskets to bows, as well as powerful teaching and healing stories.
Finally, our personal elders, and ancestors, who pointed the way, showed us the path of the upright mind, and taught us the importance of listening to the landscape and the voice of the creator. We understand that grief is what divides us, and that it is not the color of your skin, but the way you live your life that makes you a whole human being. We thank our teachers for their dedication and vision. The following is a list of elders who have personally passed on wisdom to at least one member of our Medicine Council. There are many teachers on the path of life, so if we have forgotten any, please forgive us, Tom Brown, Jr., Bob Doyle, Bob Ekhart, Dan Gardoqui, Ingwe, Leonard Jacobs, Arny Neptune, Craig Ratzat, Paul Raphael, Nancy Reitze, Ray Reitze, Kevin Reeve, Paul Rezendes, David Scott-Donlan, Tony Ten Fingers, Saponkniona Whitefeather, Charles Worsham, and Jon Young.
Ray is a Master Maine Guide known for his spiritually based teachings. For over forty years Ray has helped folks of all experience levels sharpen their ability to see the world and to hone outdoor skills that help guide one through life. Ray teaches snow shoe making, winter skills, and many other skills that will get you through the bush in comfort and for long periods of time. Through meditation, observation, discussion and Ray’s humorous stories we come to understand the source of our troubles and why people act as they do. This understanding and awareness helps us to strip away judgment and fear so we may follow our hearts with confidence and peace. Often folks will leave an experience with Ray having gained a new found stillness of mind, appreciation for the earth, and clarity of purpose. He is a founding member of the school.
Director of Adult Programs / Mentor
Michael Douglas is a Registered Maine Guide. His passion for nature, awareness, tracking, primitive skills, and philosophy, has taken him around the globe in search of teachers and opportunities to learn new skills. He is a former student of Paul Rezendes, Tom Brown Jr., Jon Young, and many others. Mike’s passion for both learning and teaching “primitive” techniques has earned him a unique reputation in the scouting community and among professional educators. After pursuing survival skills as a U.S Marine, he started his own Survival School in 1989 at the University of Maine. In 1993 he was the recipient of the Marion Rich Waterman Mayer Award from the University of Maine College of Education. Since then he has been a consultant for Discovery Channels’ “Dual Survivor” and was featured on National Geographics’ “Doomsday Preppers”, where he received the highest “Survivability Score” of the shows first season. He has also coached reality television participants on Naked and Afraid and has been a mentor to college students, professors, professional educators, Eagle Scouts, and television personalities. His apprenticeship program is internationally known, offering participants from all over the world immersion in Tracking, Survival, Awareness, Bow Making, Wild Edibles, Medicinal Plants, Hunting, Trapping, and much more. August, 2016 will mark this school’s 27th year of sharing skills with people globally. Currently, Mike is working with the Sami of Sapmi in present day Sweden to revive their cultural tools in the context of our modern society. He also directly trains the apprentices, and instructors at the school as well as a consultant in educational, corporate and entertainment venues. Mike credits his patient wife Karen and his children, Ryan, Dakota, and Emily, with their love and support in helping him realize his lifelong dream – teaching outdoor skills to all levels from beginners to military instructors of the craft.
Mike is a Registered Maine Guide who spent his early years exploring his old homestead and surrounding woodland. For a large part of his childhood he could be found flipping over rocks to find insects, digging for arrowheads, building forts, and collecting reptiles, amphibians, and fish to bring home as pets. After graduating from Ramapo College of New Jersey in 2008 with a Bachelors of Science in Accounting, he followed his heart and childhood passions up to the Maine Primitive Skills School. We have since have not be able to get rid of him. He started with us as a student in the summer of 2009, showing up for a workshop every month, and heading into the woods to camp for weeks at a time to practice the skills. After a humble summer of getting eaten by bugs, struggling to get a fire going, and staying warm, Mike became our first residential apprentice in 2010. He has since been on many staff survival trips and has played an integral part as a Senior Instructor during the past few years, while continuing to develop his skills as a mentor and a wildman. Previously, he has directed homeschooling programs and summer camps, trained staff, and instructed workshops at the Maine Primitive Gathering and Common Ground Fair. Mike enjoys living on the school property in various primitive structures for extended periods of time. A year in a tipi, months in grass huts, and wintering in a yurt has taught him much about what it means to live a simple life in the wilderness. His personal passions are focused on answering lifelong questions like, How can we work towards community vibrancy and food security using mostly wild food? What are the best ways to combine the primitive skills “Caretaking Philosophy” with the “Permaculture Design Principles”? How can yoga be used to connect us more deeply towards an awareness of the natural world? What options do we have to apply the wisdom of our ancestors to our modern world? How can bird language and animal tracking be used to connect people to empathy and awareness? How can we increase the learning curve of eager students who want to learn primitive shelter, water, fire, and food, while still giving them the dirt time needed to experience the lessons fully?
Nate is a Registered Maine Guide who grew up in northern Maine, hunting, fishing, skiing, and finding whatever excuse available to spend his time outdoors. After earning a Bachelors of Science in Marine Engineering from the Maine Maritime Academy, he spent years traveling the world working on cruise ships, specializing in water purification. His love for the natural world brought him back from the sea to complete an apprenticeship at the Maine Primitive Skills School. Nathan is passionate about sharing skills, especially bow making and foraging. He also enjoys shelter building and Bee Keeping.
Colby is a sailor, who enjoys living in the forest. He has over five years of outdoor year round living experience from Maine to Hawaii. He has overwintered in three primitive shelters here in Maine. You may find him turning dead creatures into furry clothes or creating permaculture gardens. He has completed several solo survival trips in different parts of the world. Colby has a Bachelors of Science in Adventure Therapy from Unity College in Maine and graduated Valedictorian of his class. He has studied under Tom Brown Jr. and many other primitive skills teachers. Colby has taught for several years at the annual Maine Primitive Gathering and has worked with various youth outdoor programs in Maine. He enjoys teaching the Earth Living 5 Day Course and Scout Skills Course at MPSS.
Arthur is the “Bruce Lee” of Botany. He literally wrote the book, detailing every plant in New England in Flora Novae Angliaeora published by Yale University Press. He runs many of our plant classes from his own campus at The Delta Institute where the New England Wild Flower Society many other organizations hold courses. Arthur has written extensively about wildcrafting, foraging, and nutrition in his book, Ancestral Plants, which was written in conduction with the Maine Primitive Skills School and is the first of a three-part series.
Bow Making Instructor / Bow Maker Instructor
Bob Brooks lives in Orange County, New York and has been shooting traditional bows since 1970. He became interested in primitive bows in the late 70′s and
started making his own in the early 80′s. He was further inspired by the Algonquin Archers in Woodbury, Connecticut. He is retired from 37 years of public service and is married with three children. His hobbies, other than bow making, are bow hunting, fly fishing, flintlock rifles, primitive camping (self-guided wilderness trips), cooking, eating, and generally enjoying the outdoors. His favorite bow wood is Osage Orange with his favorite local wood is Eastern Hop Hornbeam (Ironwood). He has been instructing and demonstrating bow and arrow making throughout New England for the past six years.
Adriaan grew up in sunny South Africa and moved to Maine to start fresh. Blacksmithing and knifemaking proved irresistible, and he’s been doing that full-time for over ten years. He is primarily interested in creating traditional tools and weaponry- bearded axes, halberds, swords and knives. Adriaan teaches knife making and recently helped a 14-year old boy forge a Viking migration sword. He also enjoys making damascus and traditional Japanese steel.
Director of Satellite Programs / Mentor
Lou Falank works in the public education field and is a Registered Maine Guide. He is a certified volunteer outdoor education instructor for Maine’s hunter, bow hunter, and ATV safety courses and is an examiner for the Junior Maine Guide Program. He spent 6 seasons with the Maine Conservation School in Bryant Pond planning and facilitating diverse outdoor programs for children, adults, and educators. Lou has been providing instructional support for the BOW (Becoming an Outdoors Woman) workshops here in Maine for over eight years. Lou Falanks primitive skills programs have been a popular attraction each time. Lou enjoys bringing folks more in depth with each of the skills presented at the BOW workshop through the years. He has been with the school for more than a decade and has also run after school programs teaching wildlife lessons, nature observation, and survival skills for students K-5. Lou currently resides in Portland, Maine and is in the Founder and Head Instructor of Mountain Bear Programs.
Director of Youth Programs / Mentor
Ira is a native Mainer and Eagle Scout who has spent over twenty years persuing outdoor skills and sharing them. He is a certified Public School Teacher and Administrator who shares his enthusiasm for outdoor school programming. He conceived of our family day events at Maine Primitive Skills School and has run the popular summer day camp for nearly a decade. As a Mentor, he trains and provides guidance to the current Day Camp staff. Ira brings a strong Scouting background and native Mainer perspective to the community. Story telling and throwing arts are two of his many talents.
Ira Michaud: Mentor and Story Teller
Hannah Sol Rhea
Hannah has been a part of the community for many years. Hannah has a strong connection with the plants and animals. Wild edibles and medicinals was the first niche that brought her into the world of primitive skills and permaculture. She spent two years at hawk circle, as wilderness skills apprentice and instructor, teaching programs for adults and children. She is an experienced hide tanner, and sells buckskin and fur products. She has also dabbled in fibre arts such as needle and wet felting as one way of honoring the animals by utilizing as much as possible. Her love for herbal lore and animals collided, birthing a search for knowledge on natural animal care. After using natural remedies and practices with the animals at Hawk Circle, she traveled to Eastern Europe collecting knowledge from the people of Greece and Romania. She traveled with a donkey on the island of Crete in Greece, and that experience has cascaded into a passion to learn the art of donkey packing and nomadic wandering. To do so, she recently bought two donkeys and wants to use her permaculture training to caretake the land she travels through while always continuing to develop a more intimate relationship with the nature and the unseen realm. As a gifted artist and craftsman, she has inspired the staff and community to work their own edge with regard to felting, fiber arts, animal processing and hide tanning, and nomadic Trip Planning.
Colin is originally from Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Growing up in the bogs and estuaries around his home, Colin learned an appreciation for all the creatures of the earth early on. After taking on many varied vocations throughout the years, he was enthralled by the modern earth-living movement. After graduating the Apprenticeship Program at MPSS in 2016, he continues to work on his skills and became an instructor in the Fall of 2016. Colin focuses on foraging for food, medicines, and bow making materials. With a love of increasing his suite of awareness tools and nature literacy
Ryan grew up in New Hampshire skiing and hiking in the White Mountains. College took him to Rhode Island where he studied Finance & Economics and was captain of the Track & Field team at Bryant University. After 4 years in corporate finance in Boston he decided to follow a new path and eventually came to MPSS as an eager apprentice in the spring of 2017 with an interest in foraging, re-wilding and becoming a modern hunter-gatherer. His enthusiasm for everything he learned that summer lead him to pursue a life learning and teaching ancestral skills. Along with sharing his knowledge during classes he has brought his business savvy to our community by initiating a marketing outreach plan and assisting with accounting. Friction fire, movement, mushroom foraging, awareness skills, and wild food preparations are particular areas of interest for Ryan as he continues to gain experience and sharpen his wilderness skills.
Jim was born and raised in Massachusetts spending most of his childhood in the purity of the woods where his love of nature’s solace came at an early age. This love of outdoor adventure led him into Boy Scouts, and the U.S. Army. After returning home he continued camping, hiking, and exploring, often alone because his friends didn’t like his “no tent” style of camping. After the birth of his son his then wife asked him to take a basic survival class to insure he would come home after his solo trips. This lead him to bushcraft and primitive arts, which lead to become a student of The Pathfinder School and a graduate of the School’s first Advance Class. Since that time his passion for nature, awareness, tracking, primitive skills and philosophy has taken him to study under many great elders such as Mike Douglas of the Maine Primitive Skills School, Ray “Old Turtle” Reitze of Earthways School, master bowyer Bob Brooks, Arthur Haines of the Delta Institute and more. Specializing in reversing the effects of Nature Deficiency Syndrome associated with ADD, and ADHD in both kids and adults. Still continuing his education he and his son Gage, spends their weekends at the Maine Primitive Skills School learning the ancestral ways and further developing his Primitive and Awareness skills, landscape caretaker, Mentoring and community building skills. His son Gage, now 14 yrs old, is following in his dad’s footsteps and learning deep rooted connections with nature. Learning about regenerating healthy communities and how to interact with the landscape as a healthy participant in a mutually beneficial relationship. Learning to be more respectful about what he leaves in his wake as he moves through the landscape and community and through life as an adult. He’s connected to what is authentic, dynamic, and meaningful in a resilient community as an aware, compassionate, and grounded individual. Jim was the Senior Instructor for the Pathfinder School where he taught and developed advanced courses and training. He teaches the Earth Living and Bushcraft courses. Also a writer in Self Reliance Magazine, and has currant CPR & AED, Wilderness First-Aid, Urban First Responder certificates.
At an early age, attracted by the lure of the woods, Brian became an avid hunter and outdoorsman. This soon led to a curiosity for learning about primitive cultures, skills and travel methods. From there, Brian discovered a love for raising Alaskan Malamutes to be run as a cohesive, disciplined, working dog team, and has traveled to Alaska to learn from Iditarod winner, Jeff King.
The first self-taught primitive skill he mastered was lithic reduction (the art of flintknapping), which further led to the study and use of the atlatl, a weapon which pre-dates the bow and arrow. He now competes on the world level and is one of the few competitors who has scored a 90 or above in competition. He was employed as a Dive Master and has explored inner space off the coasts of the Florida Keys, Cozumel Mexico, Curacaos, Maine and numerous rivers on the East coast of the US. He has also had the pleasure of tracking Grey Wolves, and Grizzly Bears with James Halfpenny, and Jim Bruchac in Yellowstone National Park.
Always looking to expand his knowledge, he has attended several schools and classes ranging from primitive fire and tracking to modern survival skills. His mentors have been James Bruchac of “Ndakinna Wilderness School,” Michael Head of “Wilderness Ways School,” Dr. James Halfpenny of “A Naturalist’s World,” Michael Douglas of “Maine Primitive Skills School,” and David Canterbury of “Pathfinder School.” While studying at the Pathfinder School, Brian worked to attain the position of Master Instructor, and was involved in developing and refining the school’s curriculum. Most recently, he had the opportunity to learn from the Grandfather of Bushcraft, Mors Kochanski of “Karamat Wilderness Ways.”
Always striving to better himself and give back to the outdoor community, Brian has furthered his studies and pursued the qualifications for becoming a New York State Licensed Guide. His vision and thoughts are not only to take people out to enjoy the outdoors but to teach them the practical survival skills needed to make them more self-reliant by using the timeless skills of our forefathers and primitive cultures or the modern equivalent in this age of technology.
His professional accomplishments include:
- 27-year Law Enforcement career
- Tactical Operator in the LEO community
- Forensics Investigator
- NYS Police Instructor
- NYS Licensed Guide
- NYS Certified in Land Navigation
- NYS Certified Wildland Search Level 1
- ASHI Certified Wilderness First Aid/CPR Instructor
- Modern/Primitive Wilderness Skills Instructor
- PADI Divemaster, Master Diver, SSI Dive Control Specialist and Rescue Diver