Reverie Nature Podcast

Bushcraft, Traditional Knowledge and Cultural Appropriateness

June 08, 2024 Chadwick Howard Clifford Season 2 Episode 8
Bushcraft, Traditional Knowledge and Cultural Appropriateness
Reverie Nature Podcast
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Reverie Nature Podcast
Bushcraft, Traditional Knowledge and Cultural Appropriateness
Jun 08, 2024 Season 2 Episode 8
Chadwick Howard Clifford

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  • In this episode of the Reverie Nature Podcast, host Chad Clifford highlights sections of his interview of Rick Beaver, a Michi Saagiig Anishinaabe artist and wildlife biologist from the Alderville First Nation Reserve in Central Ontario
  • They discuss the intersection of First Nations' traditional knowledge and modern bushcraft--emphasizing cultural sensitivity
  • Rick shares his experiences with the Canadian Canoe Museum, where he ensured cultural appropriateness in exhibits
  • Spiritual and practical aspects of traditional skills. 
  • Tune in for a thoughtful conversation on preserving heritage, respecting traditions, and the role of bushcraft in a cross-cultural context.











Support the Show.



Thank you for tuning in to the Reverie Nature Podcast! Your support keeps our adventures alive. Be certain to subscribe for more captivating episodes exploring the wonders of the natural world. Join us on this journey to embrace nature's song and preserve the beauty of our planet. Together, we can make a difference.

Chad Clifford

Please support the podcast through a donation or subscription at:
Buy me a coffee


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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

  • In this episode of the Reverie Nature Podcast, host Chad Clifford highlights sections of his interview of Rick Beaver, a Michi Saagiig Anishinaabe artist and wildlife biologist from the Alderville First Nation Reserve in Central Ontario
  • They discuss the intersection of First Nations' traditional knowledge and modern bushcraft--emphasizing cultural sensitivity
  • Rick shares his experiences with the Canadian Canoe Museum, where he ensured cultural appropriateness in exhibits
  • Spiritual and practical aspects of traditional skills. 
  • Tune in for a thoughtful conversation on preserving heritage, respecting traditions, and the role of bushcraft in a cross-cultural context.











Support the Show.



Thank you for tuning in to the Reverie Nature Podcast! Your support keeps our adventures alive. Be certain to subscribe for more captivating episodes exploring the wonders of the natural world. Join us on this journey to embrace nature's song and preserve the beauty of our planet. Together, we can make a difference.

Chad Clifford

Please support the podcast through a donation or subscription at:
Buy me a coffee


Transcribed by TurboScribe.ai

Welcome to the Reverie Nature Podcast. I'm your host, Chad Clifford, and in today's episode, we have a truly special guest who bridges the traditional and the modern in an inspiring way. We'll explore his perspectives on First Nations traditional knowledge and the more cross-cultural world of bushcraft in the context of our rapidly changing world.

In the Reverie Nature Podcast, you can expect to find a wide variety of topics on the nature experience. From bushcraft, survival skills, nature lore, animal tracks and sign, storytelling, nature soundscapes and much more. These are the lessons and skills I've been teaching for decades.

So before we dig in, please take a moment to subscribe and consider offering your support to the podcast. My guest, Rick Beaver, is Michi Saagik, Anishinaabe and resides on Alderville First Nation Reserve in Central Ontario. He has been a professional artist for over 45 years, but his expertise extends beyond the canvas.

As a trained wildlife biologist, Rick has dedicated his life to working with endangered species and ecosystems across Canada. In recognition of his significant contributions, Rick was awarded the honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Trent University in 2011. Even in retirement, he continues to teach, consult and advise in the areas of art, culture and the environment.

After one of his public lectures, I had the opportunity to catch up with Rick. My interest was about traditional technology and how it mixes across cultures and the sensitivities around that. In the world of bushcraft, it is inherently cross-cultural, isn't it? You know, if we recall that bushcraft comes from Australia mixing hunter-gatherer technology with kind of the modern latest and greatest survival techniques.

And all these techniques are plenty of cultures come together to give us the best possible ways to survive and get on in the wilds. So let's sidestep this topic just for a moment, and I'd like to mention the Peterborough or the Canadian Canoe Museum, which is in Peterborough. It just reopened in its new facility two weeks ago, and Rick was actually a big part of that.

He has a history working with the Canoe Museum, specifically working with the collections, making sure there was cultural appropriateness and permissions in working with the museum and with traditional peoples and their technology. So let's move on to hear Rick talk about the Canadian Canoe Museum, followed by the sensitivities that may linger around practicing bushcraft and traditional skills. I was involved in that design project where we built the new museum, and my particular role was with the Origins Gallery, the people that invented the canoe, the indigenous people of Canada.

And that was my job, to visit them, discover them, seek permission and information on the whole process. For that, I traveled around the country to do so. It was a great, great experience.

It all had to be vetted. That was my job, too. It was one of the queries that was posted to me by the people that were asking information from or portray them in the museum or the work that they did.

We made sure that it was vetted through them. They gave approval. So it's an important part of, I guess, cultural exposition.

Let me just now read to you from the Canadian Canoe Museum website. The Canadian Canoe Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are situated on the Treaty 20 Mishisagi territory and the territory covered by the Williams Treaty's First Nations. The Canadian Canoe Museum also recognizes the contributions of indigenous peoples, including First Nations, Inuit and Métis, in shaping this community and country as a whole.

As an organization that stewards the world's largest and most significant collection of canoes and kayaks, paddled watercraft, we will honor and share the cultural histories and stories within the collection in all that we do. Also on their website is this. The Canadian Museum was named one of the best cultural spots on National Geographic's Best of the World 2024, the brand's annual guide of the most exciting, meaningful and one-of-a-kind travel experiences for 2024.

One of the seven wonders of the world is also what it was named. One of the wonders of the world was the canoe and the Canoe Museum was part of that. Jeremy Ward is the man to talk to down there in terms of bushcraft.

He builds canoes, for instance. And he engages the discussion with traditional skills. And he's also the curator.

And Kurt Whipper? Kurt is gone. Kurt Whipper is passed on. But he was a big part of getting the initial collection together.

He ran Camp Canador, I think, in one of the northern traditional canoe camps for outdoor ed for kids. And his canoes were found scattered all over the place in chicken coops and everything else in old abandoned buildings. And out of that, those are the origins of the Canadian Canoe Museum.

Quite a story. I met them, of course, you know, in the early days. My involvement with the museum was when they were on Monaghan Road in downtown Peterborough and they inherited the old Outboard Marine Corporation.

The people that made Evan Roods and Johnson Motors were given the property to establish the museum in. For one dollar, I think it was. Our conversation next drifted towards technology and bushcraft, mixing the traditional cultural appropriateness and what his thoughts were on that.

I think you mentioned your sources. If you don't, in fact, have permission from them, the least you can do is say, this comes from so and so, or such and such, from where they're from. And mention the fact that this is a sensitivity and that you would like to just honor and pay the due respect to the originator or the transcriber or whatever the activity you're involved in, the maker, the original maker of this particular technology, right then and there.

And that's all you can do because we're not going to change the fact that people adapt, modify, do their own thing with something that's inspired by the work. Look at the arguments we have right now about artificial intelligence. A lot of people have saying that's just a license to steal because you're homogenizing the great creative work of a number of artists, perhaps, and incorporating it into something that you could then lay claim to as being your own creation.

And there will be large fortunes made from it. That's the motivation for all of this, after all. I don't think much of it.

I think a lot of it is, but we were bound to go there, bound and determined. That's the way we've always had it, and innovation and technological advancements and improvements have always been built upon the work of others who preceded us. That's how we roll.

It's a big machine. It's part of cultural evolution and what have you. Where we do get into conflicts with existing cultural norms or sensitivities is things like songs.

For instance, if you're out on the West Coast and you're singing a song that's a family song that's been passed out, you must acknowledge it. You don't sing it otherwise unless you've been given permission to do that. So, when there is a transgression there, I can absolutely understand why there would be some feelings about that.

You do some amazingly inventive things when it's life or death involved. That's where I think you... I can see people sitting down in the ground and thinking really hard how to work this through, so that it would work to get the desired results. It might be an adaptation of somebody else's work.

But when survival is involved, you don't have time to go seek permission. You can beg for forgiveness. I'm glad there's still mystery in the world.

I really do believe that mystery is the thing that invites curiosity and the seeking or the quest for knowledge and creative engagement. That's the secret. Curiosity, that's who we are.

I mean, it's one of our greatest attributes. How to survive in a different way. Bushcraft's all about that, isn't it, really? That it's core.

It's practical, but it's also different ways of getting to the same point, using what's at hand. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And so, you know, we're pretty good at that.

One other topic that came up was spirituality and technology. And I was getting... My angle to this was, you know, with First Nations, hunter-gatherer, there's always been a spiritual tradition. And that was interwoven with the daily activities, including survival skills in bushcraft and that so-called primitive technology.

And I was curious what his thoughts were, because, you know, when you use bushcraft, you know, you're kind of sanitizing the skills, perhaps, from, you know, the original spiritual components. And I just wanted his thoughts on that as part of the cultural identity, you know, and taking the technology and maybe splitting it from other aspects. You know, how do we approach that, or what are the sensitivities there? And I was a little surprised by his answer, mainly because my own painting cultures with the too broad of a brush and assuming, you know, the spiritual attachments were connected to the skills and whatnot.

I just wasn't sure, but I was glad to hear Rick's perspective on it. I'm raised in science formally, and the scientific technique and a lot of my career was all about using the methodology, the mathematics, the deductive reasoning, the statistical analysis of reaching a verdict. So that's part of my being.

The other part is the awareness that for a lot of people, the razor's edge came down to whether if you did, oh, this, you died, you know, you starved, you died of thirst. You were in the wrong place at the wrong time, living with dangerous animals. I mean, those are skills that I can see forever in the day human beings have wondered who they are and what are their real connections to existence itself.

How did we get here? So I can see where it's really easy to implicate God, the great spirits, everything else. I'm fine with that. Personally, my own personal belief is it's enough to dishonor the fact that you exist at all.

Everybody you meet is a unique opportunity. It'll never come again. So I don't have to believe in an afterlife of any kind.

My job is to just be the best I can right here and now and say, say if you have a partner. I know a lot of people believe that when you die, you're going to meet again in heaven or wherever. That's not good enough for me.

It gives you an out, in other words, to think you get a second chance. I take the only chance I know is available and I honor it, respect it and do it that way. So if that person is important in your life, you act like it and it's been a good run as long as you're alive.

So that's my particular approach to it. It's a practical one. To me, it's real.

There's no scientist in the world can prove that God exists or that the great spirit exists. I know it's a big, big belief among a lot of indigenous people, but they're simply going through the process of inquiry and curiosity that everybody goes through. I happen to have reached a different conclusion in my own life.

It doesn't make me less an indigenous person. I understand that way of approaching things. One last topic that I talked with Rick about was Sasquatch.

And I've never really thought about Sasquatch beyond the folklore I might hear or in passing talking to some people who believe in it and keep their eyes open for tracks and sign. I haven't watched the television series that are dealing with Sasquatch and sightings, but here's what Rick's perspective is on that. I've been watching.

Sasquatch fascinates me. There's a study, a scientific study of Sasquatch and the fact that bears get overlapping prints. Sometimes that looks like a bigger Sasquatch foot or something.

That stuff fascinates me. Of course, within indigenous people, it's a fact that they exist. And they will tell you too that these are not your run-of-the-mill animals.

They are spirit animals. In fact, it's one of the seven grandfathers who taught honesty. When I posted that up, Sasquatch was the teacher of honesty.

He's one of the seven grandfathers, and his name is Kichisabe, which means really upright. The reason they call it really upright is that only an honest individual can walk that tall. I'm going to remember that.

He's really upright. Kichisabe. That's the Ojibwe word for Sasquatch.

It's rather fascinating. I've never seen one yet. I've never seen a track of one.

But I know a lot of people are on that trail and quest. If it is a spirit animal, there would be certain things about it. And why not? We know so little about the universe, really.

So very little about what goes on. It reminds me of Thunderbird or Spirit Bird. A lot of things like that.

I know people that have seen it and believe it. I hold my incredulity in abeyance. Scientific waterproof, I know that.

And what do they consider to be proof? Well, I guess a body and hand is the first thing they would insist is proof positive. So what if you get it in your hand and it just disappears? What do you do then? So there you have it. My talk with Rick Bieber.

A really fun guy to hang out with and listen to. Lots of great stories. Lots of great insight.

As far as my initial question of cultural sensitivities and teaching of bushcraft, I feel a little more relaxed about that. In modern day and ages, we have plenty of the cancel culture stuff. People teaching bushcraft and other people looking at it with that critical eye and that knee-jerk reaction to something they're emotionally responding to.

As Rick Bieber mentioned to me, intent is important. Be respectful, get out there, enjoy bushcraft, and get out there and check out the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough. Just having this big reopening in 2024.

I had been there, oh, I don't know when the last time it was, decades ago. And what a place. Yeah, go check that out for sure.

Thank you for joining us on the Riverie Nature Podcast. Remember to subscribe for more captivating episodes exploring the wonders of the natural world. Until next time, may you saunter forth, embracing nature's song, and may the whispers of the wilderness linger in your heart.

Transcribed by TurboScribe.ai.











Introduction
The Canadian Canoe Museum
Bushcraft, traditional knowledge and potential sensitivities
The Skills and Spiritual Tradition
Sasquatch
Closing Thoughts