About Us

Our Mission is to foster resilience through place-based arts, traditions, and technologies.

Rewild Portland is a nonprofit organization based in Portland, Oregon. Our mission comes to life in the form of community-building, ecological restoration, and education.  Rewilding means “to return to a more wild or self-willed state.” This encompasses a large spectrum of nature connection, from learning about native plants to full-on living off grid in the style of earth-based hunter-gatherer-gardeners. Resilience is a culture’s ability to withstand or bounce back from large-scale environmental and social changes. Rewilding creates resilience because it is about getting the things you need to live from the land you live on in a regenerative manner, not extracted and shipped from thousands of miles away. Our goal as an organization is to provide a full-spectrum model of education and implementation—from students who come to a single introductory course, to partners of a collective using regenerative design land management principles to live off the land together.

Our Vision
As we adapt to the needs of the future, from the energy power-down, environmental devastation, population growth problems, economic shifts from global to local, we see grass-roots communities of rewilding forming all over the world to meet the needs of the environment and the people. From bands of nomadic hunter-gatherers and pastoralists, to more sedentary fishing and permaculture communities, to the revitalization of indigenous peoples and customs, our vision of the future looks as diverse as humanity’s “prehistoric” past.

What We Do

Rewilding is the process of creating autonomous, place-based, regenerative subsistence cultures. It is rooted in social and environmental justice and at its core is about restoring the health and vitality of our minds, bodies, relationships, communities, and ecosystems. There is a mismatch between how humans have evolved to live and the way most of us are currently living. Many of us sit indoors most of the time, cut off from the elements. We eat processed foods with minimal nutritional value. We do not know the plants in our bioregion, or which are edible and how to prepare them. Most of us no longer know how to craft the things we need to live from what we can find in our direct environment. We may rarely even notice the natural world unfolding around us. And many of us feel cut off even from human community despite living in a city, surrounded by people.

We face a host of other monumental challenges as well. From the pandemic to climate change to economic uncertainties, we’ve seen the fragility of our modern cultural systems. The programs and services we provide at Rewild Portland help us build resilience and connection in the face of these challenges.

Our organization is equal parts vision keeping and practical application. Using a blend of contemporary anthropology and ecology, we create a narrative of humanity that connects people to each other and our place in a way that strives for harmony—and then we provide a multitude of spaces where people can take action to make these revelations a reality, both as individuals and as members of the larger community. To us, authentic resilience is multidimensional and interconnected. For this reason we strive for a balance in three overlapping areas of focus: education, community, and restoration. 

Our educational focus is twofold: knowledge (or theory) and skills (or practice). In the realm of theory, we teach (for example, in our Rewilding 101 class) contemporary anthropology and ecology that has yet to permeate the mainstream and that offers a hopeful story of humanity’s past and present. We engage in discussions around the latest news articles, scientific journals, and data to keep our community informed and inquisitive, and discuss the myths and realities of “human nature,” so that we can create strategies for the future. Our perennial central question is, “What does it mean to be human, and what is our ecological niche?”

On the practical application side, we teach the skills of resilience—i.e., how to create the things we need to live from the elements in the ecologies around us. We teach skills around edible wild foods, gardening, basketmaking, friction fire making, fiber spinning, knife sharpening, and many more. Our goal is to create fluent practitioners, and ultimately for these skills to be embodied in many people within the region.

Community-building is also central to resilience. Skills and theory are not enough: we evolved in social organizations, and larger-scale action requires strong social networks and relationships. While some Rewild Portland programs focus on one particular age demographic, such as our kids camps, most of our community programs are geared toward whole families and toward connecting families and friends. This family and friend (or kinship) focus makes the family (and extended family) unit itself more resilient, because it emphasizes groups of people creating resilience together, as opposed to individuals operating in isolation.

All of our programs have the underlying goal of creating social connections and building a larger community with a shared vision and purpose. We teach skills like conflict resolution, transformative justice, mentoring, and how to care and provide for one another through mutual aid. 

The colonial practice of industrial agriculture and habitat destruction for “development” has left many of our landscapes barren, rife with invasive species, and poisoned with chemicals. To create resilience, we must also work to restore these landscapes into diverse ecosystems that can provide the things that we, as well as the non-humans we share space with, need to live. This means getting our hands dirty doing restoration work, removing invasive species, planting back native plants, and encouraging people to grow roots into their place.

These three elements—education, community, and restoration—form the core of our organization. We dwell at the intersection of environmental education and restoration, arts and crafts, and personal and community health. A prime example of this work is expressed in our English ivy basket weaving course. In this course, participants engage in native habitat restoration by removing ivy, an invasive species. They then learn to transform those vines into a beautiful and functional basket. Engaging with the land, working with their hands, being of service, being in community, connecting with others—all of these things lead to mental and physical well-being as well as a sense of accomplishment and confidence in their skills.

Another example is our Weaver’s Wheel program, where we show students how to grow natural fiber plants and then turn them into thread for weaving projects. Again, students in this program garden, work with the land, work with their hands, and connect in community, leading to improved mental and physical well-being. 

In short, we are a community organization of environmentally conscious people actively engaging in practices of resilience and connection in multifaceted ways.

How We Do This Work

We offer a wide variety of programming and have a little bit of something for everyone—from hands-on skills and crafts classes, to getting our hands dirty tending the wild, to deep philosophical discussions.

Our first and longest-running community program is our monthly Free Skills Series. For the last thirteen years, we have offered this free, all-ages, all-skill-levels class every month. Class topics alternate between such things as wild edible plants (for instance, how to harvest, process, and eat nettles in a regenerative way), ancestral technologies (such as basket weaving or friction fire), and social technologies (such as storytelling or conflict resolution). Beyond just teaching skills, this program connects people with shared interests and creates a social network of shared values that can exist beyond the event. We set aside time at each event for attendees to socialize and make new friends. Our Free Skills Series this year has been very well attended, with more than one hundred Portlanders showing up at each event. 

We offer a free monthly Spoon Club, where participants share their knowledge and skill of green woodworking. This involves learning safe techniques for knife and hatchet work, the qualities of different woods, and how to carve things like spoons, bowls, and more. For safety reasons, Spoon Club maxes out at forty people per month. In addition to being a lot of fun, lots of friendships are formed at Spoon Club.

Another free program, our Philosopher’s Fire, is a monthly community conversation focused on different rewilding-related topics. Each event centers around a question such as: How do we care for our elders? How do we forage ethically? How can we tend our human relationships? Dozens of people participate in these meet-ups each month. 

Our Community Nursery offers the opportunity for volunteers to learn more about gardening with natives, perennials, medicinal, and fiber and dye plants. This is a place for community members to expand their knowledge of plants and their uses—and often to take home plants to grow on their own. We also host a Share the Harvest Festival each fall, as a way to celebrate and share the abundance of the season with the community.

The Social Forestry Club connects land owners in our community with people who do not have access to land, and provides the opportunity to connect with a place and each other through a combination of recreation, volunteer work, and community building. Where our Community Nursery teaches more small-scale gardening and individual plant uses, Social Forestry Club teaches larger-scale land tending. Participants get to forage for wild foods, learn forestry skills, and connect with green spaces outside urban zones. 

The Rewild Library is a collection of more than 500 books that range from simple regional field guides, to how-to books on topics like bushcraft, to rare academic texts on anthropology, archaeology, and indigenous studies. We hold “Read-Ins,” where community members are encouraged to come and read from the library, then discuss what they learned in the books they chose—another opportunity for dialogue and discussion around a vision of a regenerative future. 

Each month we host a Supporters Hike (for both donors and volunteers), where we lead a group hike in the more wild places that surround Portland. These are community-building events and a chance for people to share their collective knowledge of nature.

All of these community-based programs are funded mostly through small donations from individuals, grants, corporate sponsorships, and some of the revenue we generate from our tuition-based programs. 

Aside from our free community programs, we also offer tuition-based youth programs and adult courses. Our Youth Camps focus on self-directed play and exploration of nature, with dedicated time to teaching about archaeology and simple crafts to connect children with humanity’s past in a hands-on way. Our Thursday and Friday Homeschool Program follows a similar pedagogy. 

Rewild’s adult classes are more didactic in nature, ranging from deep explorations of prehistory and the different impacts humans have had on the environment, to more involved skills classes focused on making fire by friction, weaving baskets, spinning fiber, learning regenerative ways to forage for wild plants, and other skills.

We host two annual conferences, Echoes in Time and the Annual North American Rewilding Conference. Echoes in Time is a week-long ancestral skills conference that involves hundreds of people of all ages camping out and taking classes on a wide variety of hands-on skills. The Rewilding Conference is a mostly online conference of curated speakers and Open Space dialogue between participants. At this conference we have the opportunity to broadcast our message of rewilding a bit farther, across the country and even around the world, as well as receive a lot of stories and insight that exist in communities far from us. 

For many years we’ve provided a lot of community services with very few resources. Become a donor of Rewild Portland today.

Our Guiding Principles

There are many amazing and unique outdoor and environmental education organizations in Portland, Oregon, the United States, and around the world. We have outlined our education philosophy to allow potential students and families, donors, employees, and members to understand our own unique approach and decide if we are the right match for you. This is the “fine print,” so to speak, that identifies our own organizational personality and shows how we differ from some of the other (but equally amazing) organizations out there.

We follow the nonprofit organizational model.
Our organization is structured like a nonprofit because we are a nonprofit. There is a board of directors who protect and drive the mission and who oversee the work of the executive director. The executive director oversees the day-to-day operations of the organization. The other staff are paid instructors and volunteers who are dedicated to rewilding and building the community of rewilding.

We live on Chinookan, Kalapuya, and Molalla land.
We recognize and acknowledge all that we have learned about this place through our Native allies and community members. Portland sits on top of land that belongs to the Chinook, Kalapuya, and Molalla Indians. These cultures have been here since time immemorial. They are now part of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.

We take cultural appropriation seriously.
Cultural appropriation is a serious issue that we do not take lightly. Most of the skills we teach can be found around the world and bridge human cultures. We generally teach the archaeology and cultural aspects (if available) from ancient and modern cultures. If and when we teach a skill that originates from the Native people in this place, we have Native people teach it, or non-native people who have been given permission by Native elders who taught them. Lineage and cultural significance are important to us.

Social justice is essential to the rewilding movement.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are vitally important to our organization and to the rewilding movement as a whole. One of our main objectives as an organization is to actively work toward diversifying the movement, removing obstacles to rewilding, and finding ways for all people, especially those in underserved populations, to participate freely and comfortably in earth-based learning. This is an ongoing process that we are continually trying to improve.

All humans have ancestors that lived rooted to the earth.
For the majority of human history, we have lived intimately in nature-based cultures. It is only recently, within the last several thousand years, that civilization has distinguished itself as separate from nature and enslaved the majority of life on the planet. This artificial separation has wreaked havoc on the land, indigenous peoples, and the hearts and psyches of those humans living within this culture. The knowledge and skills that we teach at Rewild Portland keep us connected to nature and historic human cultures.

Environmental or “nature” education is foundational to human existence.
Humans are an integral—not separate—part of nature. In order to learn how to integrate our culture into the landscape in a way that is regenerative rather than extractive, we must learn the ways in which the natural world works to regenerate itself. We must follow the physical laws of nature. Our existence depends on how well we understand our place. Nature education teaches us to understand this.

Environmental education should be accessible to everyone.
We live in a system of disproportionate wealth and privilege. Many people live without the means to receive education about nature that can deepen their relationship with the land; many educational programs are too expensive, serve only a particular ethnicity, or are too far from population centers. In order for humans to learn to live sustainably, we all need adequate access to affordable, free, and/or community environmental education. One of our driving objectives as an organization is to make this possible. We do this through our monthly free skills classes, work/trade positions at many of our programs, scholarships, and generally foster a community of rewilding where folks can meet each other, becomes friends, and share skills outside of the organizations programs.

Environmental education and immersion are a form of therapy and lead to well-being.
With all of our modern technological distractions, we’ve traveled far from our evolutionary nature. Psychological stress associated with disconnection from nature and the therapeutic results of nature education have been well researched and documented by many mainstream educators, particularly Richard Louv, who coined the term “Nature Deficit Disorder.” Environmental education is not just essential for human cultures to continue: it is essential for the individual human psyche.

Environmental education is more effective when it is interactive.
Learning through doing accesses the three learning styles: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. By fostering direct engagement with the environment, we create authentic experiences that will have enduring effects at the individual and collective level. We don’t talk about the natural world: we go out and talk with the natural world, and most importantly, listen to the natural world.

Unstructured time, or “free play,” in nature is an essential element of environmental education.
Children and adults alike learn through play. If learning didn’t feel good, we wouldn’t do it. Real learning is fun and playful, though it can also be uncomfortable and challenging. In order to encourage interactive play, we provide our students with unstructured time in nature to explore and have their own experiences with nature.

It is impossible to set benchmarks on play.
Playing in the woods teaches immeasurable amounts of information. A person may learn spatial awareness and navigation through balancing on logs and hiking through rough terrain or during a moonlit night hike. They may learn basic unconscious engineering techniques while building a “fort” made from sticks and leaves, or they may learn the physics of friction, tension, and force while making a fire from natural materials. Interaction with nature in a group setting provides constant, spontaneous lessons in problem solving and social cooperation, and opportunities to demonstrate care for others and develop leadership skills.

Education should not be another disposable product.
The fallacy of setting benchmarks on nature play is that people expect to learn new things at every class, rather than build their fluency. This is unfortunate as it leads to disposable programs­—many students learn to identify a plant during a program, and move on to the next theme, thinking they will retain the knowledge they gained in one class. This is particularly true of children. We have heard dozens of students at programs say things like, “I already know this,” but when we quiz them on the subject, they either get half the answers incorrect or can’t answer them at all. What they actually mean is “I already experienced this lesson.” They are conflating knowledge and fluency with experience. Modern education teaches many children that knowledge is consumable­—something to hear and then forget, but think you know it, because you have heard it once or twice before.

We value fluency over consumable education.
Environmental education is spontaneous by nature. The same course taught in different locations, with different participants, by different staff will yield different outcomes. However, repetition and application are important aspects of becoming fluent in a skill. We encourage students to take our classes multiple times in an effort to build proficiency.

We create meaning beyond our programs.
Our goal is to make an impact that will last beyond our programs. Fluency is a way of doing this, but in our shorter programs where the time requirement for becoming fluent may not be possible, we wish to create a deeply moving experience that will leave our students inspired to learn more and connect with the natural world on an even deeper level. The impact of environmental education is not just about the things you learn, but the experience—the feelingof being connected to the land.

Our educational pedagogy is rooted in Jon Young’s Art of Mentoring and 8 Shields.
We believe that culture is the best teacher. Hunter-gatherers are able to teach their children many things about the natural world, so much so that by the age of nine, most children in these cultures would be able to survive on their own if they had to. This means they can procure shelter, water, food, and fire. They know how to avoid predators and how to attract prey. All of this by the age of nine, without schools or educational institutions of any kind. In these cultures an “invisible” educational model is at work, with various cultural elements engaging the children in intense educational experiences. Our organization works with this model as well.  We infuse our students’ free play with traditional cultural elements to set certain parameters and guide their play towards intended lessons.

Our programs strive towards authenticity.
This means we shy away from industrial products like plastics, and gimmicky marketing related to the latest pop cultural motif, Disney movie, or technology. We avoid corporate logos and imagery. We want to wrap students in an authentic experience of nature and natural culture. We don’t forbid iPods at our camps because we are Luddites who hate technology (we’re not); we do this because we believe there is value in making our own music and telling our own stories, and these are the values we want to teach and promote.

There is no one right way.
We don’t claim to be the “best,” “coolest,” or “most hardcore” school or summer camp out there. We do not believe this, because we do not believe we have the one right method. No one does. This applies not only to teaching methods but also to teaching philosophies. We respect diversity and are proud of the various unique methods of teaching and programming that exist in nature education. It is through our unique qualities as organizations that we can reach more people who are attracted to the individual characteristics of the different organizations and schools in Portland and beyond.

This also applies to our staff’s various methods of teaching, or their methods for creating the crafts that they fashion. Experiences lead to different opinions of how to do something. The old adage says “Two of a kind will never agree.” We think that is great. One organization might fit the needs and personality of an individual much more than another organization. “Birds of a feather flock together.” Diversity is key.

Fundamentalism is never fun.
The enemy of diversity is fundamentalism. All of our guiding principles are goals, not steadfast rules.

Collaboration trumps competitiveness.
We often collaborate with other organizations. These joint projects succeed by combining philosophies, resources, and diverse orientations to topics of shared interest. This benefits everyone: the collective group of communities around each organization, including ours, make connections and build a broader community, while the individual organizations retain their unique personalities.

Cultural education, not formal education.
We do not merely teach people about the natural world; we teach people how to communicate and move through the natural world in life-giving ways. It is not enough to simply teach ancestral skills. We must see those skills come to life with stories and beauty. Those simple “tools” must become living, breathing artifacts of beauty, rich with meaning and heavy with significance. We don’t breathe life into the lifeless; we see and reveal the inherent life in what some deem inanimate. We help people remember what it is to be a human, in a more-than-human world.

Regeneration is the key to resilience.
To keep the world alive and thriving, we must continuously regenerate our bodies, our culture, and the land. We can’t endlessly extract resources without leading to a calamitous outcome. We give back through restoration of the land, understanding our place, and by navigating the terrain of grief and praise, sun and rain, vitality, and poetry.

If you are excited about what we do, please Support Us!

• Volunteer with us

• Take a course

Attend a Skillshare

Donate to our organization

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Our Organization’s History

Rewild Portland is a project of Mythmedia. Mythmedia is a nonprofit that was founded in January of 2002. For years our focus was solely on the production of video and film in the areas of environmental sustainability and grassroots storytelling. We operated the first and longest-running open-mic-style independent film screening in Portland. For five years, “Broadcast” connected storytellers once a month, on the full moon, to share their thoughts and visions on a big screen, in front of an interactive audience.

We also held a writing workshop for unschooled and homeless youth, initiated writing workshops and lecture events with author Derrick Jensen, hosted a yearly party called the Nuclear Winter Formal, ran apocalypse survival summer camp for adults, and produced a comedic short film titled The Adventures of Urban Scout. In 2009, after taking a break for a couple of years, we re-emerged in 2009 to create Rewild Portland, the environmental education arm of Mythmedia.

Since 2009, we have run a free monthly skill-share (our Free Skills Series) focused on topics that fall into three overarching themes: Food (for example, acorn processing, ethical foraging practices, dandelion for food and medicine), Craft (archery, friction fire, shoemaking, etc.), and Culture (grief ritual, rites of passage, storytelling, etc.). We have gained a reputation around Portland for our innovative English ivy basketry classes. In 2013 we began restructuring our Board of Directors and continue to clarify our vision and values. We are happy to be expanding our programs to meet the needs of Portlanders and all those who inhabit the surrounding rural and wild areas of this beautiful, rich land.

We owe a great debt to the many teachers who have influenced our rewilding philosophy as well as the way we teach. We send our greatest thanks to Daniel Quinn, author of Ishmael; Jon Young and Wilderness Awareness School; Martín Prechtel and Bolad’s Kitchen; Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass; Joseph Campbell, author of The Power of Myth; Nancy Turner, author of The Earth’s Blanket; M. Kat Anderson, author of Tending the Wild; Michael Green, creator of The Afterculture; and Jason Godesky, creator of Anthropik and The Fifth World.

Suggested Reading
Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
The Disobedience of the Daughter of the Sun and other books by Martín Prechtel
The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Limited Wants, Unlimited Means by John Gowdy
by David R. Montgomery
Keeping It Living
by Douglas E. Deur and Nancy J. Turner
Tending the Wild
by M. Kat Anderson
Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature
by Jon Young,‎ Evan McGown, and Ellen Haas 

Non-Discrimination Statement:

Rewild Portland does not and shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status, in any of its activities or operations. These activities include, but are not limited to, hiring and firing of staff, selection of volunteers and vendors, and provision of services. We are committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all members of our staff, clients, volunteers, subcontractors, vendors, and clients.

Rewild Portland is an equal opportunity employer. We will not discriminate and will take affirmative action measures to ensure against discrimination in employment, recruitment, advertisements for employment, compensation, termination, upgrading, promotions, and other conditions of employment against any employee or job applicant on the bases of race, color, gender, national origin, age, religion, creed, disability, veteran’s status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

Rewild Portland is a project of Mythmedia, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation.