The History of MPSS

The Maine Primitive Skills School started as “The Good Earth School” on August 4th, 1989 at the University of Maine in Orono.  Its purpose was to educate and re-establish a deep nature connection through fieldcraft skills common to all cultures. 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 includes many students and instructors; as well as volunteers, assistant instructors, administrators, apprentices (residential and non-residential), and elders.  We continue to to grow by encouraging self reliant individuals to be leaders in emergent & resilient communities.  We rely on this sense of community for our success and would like to thank everyone who has been, and who will be, a part the Maine Primitive Skills School family.

Our Lineage

Tom Brown Jr., founder of the Tracker School

Ray Reitze showing us how to make the compression ring for a lodge

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 as an evolution of seven generations of Vision keepers tending a mission to preserve deep nature connection through field craft and the skills inherent in our collective ancestry.

We must first recognize the Northern Lipan Apache. Stalking Wolf was raised free of the reservations in the mountains of northern Mexico. Born in the 1870’s during a time of great warfare and violence, he was part of a band of Lipan Apache that never surrendered. He was taught the traditional ways of his people and became a shaman and a scout. When he was twenty a vision sent him away from his people, and for the next sixty-three years he wandered, seeking teachers and learning the old ways of many native peoples, and others who lived close to the earth. Stalking Wolf traveled the length and breadth of the Americas, following the Creators call. He never held a job, drove a car, paid taxes, or participated in modern society. When he was eighty-three years old, he encountered a small boy gathering fossils in a stream bed. He recognized that boy as the person with whom he would spend his final years, and to whom he would teach all that he knew. That boy was Tom Brown, Jr. Tom became the recipient of not only all that Stalking Wolf had learned during his travels, but the distillation of hundreds of years of Apache culture as well. These are the teachings that Tom passes on at his famous Tracking, Nature, and Wilderness Survival School. From Coyote Thunder, to Stalking Wolf, from Stalking Wolf to Tom Brown Jr., From Tom to us, we honor and carry the Vision of reconnecting the caretakers to their landscape.

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 Sapokniona Whitefeather’s teachings.

The nations of the Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, Norridgewock, Micmac, and Maliseet tended these forests and waterways that we now call home. Their collective love and commitment to the future generations, which has been carried forward in spite of being widely suppressed, is impactful to say the least.

We give thanks to our own teachers for their dedication and vision. We feel honored to have the opportunity to learn from so many people who serve as profound beacons of hope and wisdom in a world that is just remembering the value inherent to the work of nature connection mentoring. These are elders and ancestors who pointed the way, showed us the path of the upright mind, and who taught us the importance of listening to the landscape and the voice of the creator. We know from them that grief is what divides us, and that it’s the way you live your life that makes you a whole human being. The following is a few of these people who have personally passed on wisdom to at least one member of our staff and/or community, and whose teachings have had a lasting impact on our philosophy:

Many have contributed to the MPSS community over the years…

Below is a list of mentors, teachers, and peers that we would like to offer additional gratitude for, as their work has often been in service of a collective vision of healthy community and human-earth connection. There are many guides on the path of life, so if we have forgotten any, please forgive us.

We give our thanks to: Tom Brown, Jr., Bob Doyle, Bob Ekhart, Dan Gardoqui, Ingwe, Leonard Jacobs, Arnie Neptune, Craig Ratzat, Paul Raphael, Nancy Reitze, Ray Reitze, Kevin Reeve, Paul Rezendes, David Scott-Donlan, Tony Ten Fingers, Sapokniona Whitefeather, Charles Worsham, Jeff Gottlieb, Bob Brooks, and Jon Young.

Bob Brooks sharing the art of bow-making