Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Dani Hemmat
Editorial@lhvc.com 

Learning ancestral skills can empower and connect us

 

Gelsomina Ferrari

Practical leathercraft, such as these Scandinavian-style buckskin bags, is one of the many skills that are taught at LCP.

In this age, the majority of us are more connected to our smartphones than the rhythm of the seasons, and half of us wouldn’t know how to turn on a faucet without waving our hands in front of it. We are connected, but not to anything other than a device. It is, if you will, an age of disconnect.

And that’s where the Laughing Coyote Project comes in. This school on an assuming chunk of land called Fire Willow Farm near the corner of 65th and Nelson in Longmont offers up the chance to build a skillset that not only brings us back to the skills of our ancestors, but also provide a way to increase our understanding of the world in which we live.

Founded in 2007 by Gelsomina Malferrari and Neal Ritter, Laughing Coyote Project (LCP) began as a nature school for youth, with offerings for both all-day programs for homeschoolers and after-school offerings for others. In 2009, LCP added their first adult workshop teaching friction fire making.

The variety of workshops that LCP has offered since then ranges from wild foraging to animal tracking, basket crafting to knife making. Both Malferrari and Ritter, who are also LCP’s head instructors, have years of experience in primitive, or ancestral skills, and teach many of the workshops themselves. They have a broad network of collaborators across the world, and they often bring in guest instructors to teach the unique subjects they try to offer in their adult workshops.

“Primitive skills are deeply empowering, and connect us to the common threads of our shared humanness,” said Ritter. “Some of these skills are practical and immediately applicable to the modern world, such as foraging, animal processing, basketry, while others awaken qualities within us that are more intangible, yet healing and uplifting.

“Friction fire is a perfect example. Very few folks light a fire regularly, and even less with a hand-drill or bow-drill kit. Yet when an ember is made for the first time, and gently nurtured into a flame, it is a pivotal moment, unforgettable. The skills of crafting with our hands, movement and connection to landscape are our human birthright.”

Both Malferrari and Ritter live a unique lifestyle that demonstrates their commitment to practicing and living the skills they teach.

“We wear buckskin clothing, raise most of our own food, forage and hunt, and teaching is simply an extension of our passion for this lifestyle,” said Ritter. And while there are a number of schools in Colorado that teach ancestral and primitive living skills, LCP focuses less on using those skills in a survival scenario and more for development of each participant’s potential.

“We focus more on developing our human potential and daily application of the skills and projects. Also, as youth programs have been a major piece of our teaching for the past twelve years, our adult programs are infused with a level of playfulness and vitality that is unique,” Ritter said. “Living, teaching and dreaming primitive skills is what we do, and our passion is developing the most engaging curriculum and progressions that we can. Our programs evolve continuously, as we are still learning and growing within these skills ourselves.”

Gelsomina Ferrari

Laughing Coyote Project’s Neal Ritter gathers nourishing cattail pollen to use yearound.

LCP’s upcoming workshop roster is full of options for anyone who wants to live more closely with the land or to add some practical skills to their lives. A charcuterie intensive, backcountry trailing, hide-tanning and basketry are just some of the unique offerings that folks can learn. Ritter loves sharing that sort of knowledge with anyone who wants it.

“When someone attends an ancestral skills workshop, it leads to a paradigm shift. Unknown green plants become food, sticks become baskets or bows, discarded animal parts become beautiful hides, food or tools. Watching this transformation in students inspires us to continue teaching these skills year after year,” he said.

“Our workshops give participants an opportunity to immerse themselves in something tangible, real and deeply fulfilling.”

For more information on LCP, their school and adult workshops, visit www.laughingcoyoteproject.org.

 

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