Our History | Our Dream
White Pine Wilderness Academy was founded by Matt Shull in 2014 to address an urgent need for quality nature connection. Prior to 2014 Matt facilitated workshops through the umbrella of Eehsipana Urban and Wilderness Survival School. Eehsipana (pronounced “ee-sa-pah-nah”) was co-founded by Matt Shull and Ethan Runnels in 2008. Ethan was an advanced primitive technologist and ‘coyote mentor’. Ethan passed away in 2009 when he drowned in the White River. His life’s dedication of helping people through the medium of primitive technology lives on at White Pine. It is through the teachings of our elders and the global primitive skills movement that White Pine owes it’s existence. We humbly pass on this curriculum that is truly thousands of years old.
One night just before bed I went over the writing assignments that my General Manager Paul had given me for the website. The History of White Pine was one of them. That night I had some powerful dreams that had been with me all morning. As I wrote they began to make sense. In my dream I was laying down to sleep in the yurt at White Pine and out of the corner of my eye I see the leg of a rabbit. The leg turned over and was being tugged by something just out of view, something was eating it. I began to see the debris from under the rabbit lift up and move. There was something large, carnivorous, and very close. I leaned my head back slightly to get a better view and I saw the beautiful grey, white, brown and black fur of a coyote tail. I was overwhelmed with a feeling of wildness. It was a fear, mixed with burning curiosity, mixed with adrenaline mixed with euphoria. In my dream, which felt completely real, I thought, “I’m right next to a coyote!” When I thought this the coyote lurched up and bolted off with his tail between his legs and a look over his shoulder. At about 30 yards he slowed to a trot and ran more broadside so he could get a better look at me, then he changed directions again and flowed away like water. It was the most confident gait I had ever seen. It was everything I had come to love about the coyote. I was overcome with excitement and an overwhelming urge to follow him. I ran towards him picking up the tracks he left on the ground. The next thing I knew I had been transported from my home in Rocky Ripple to the desert mountains of southern California. I was hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail. I was back in the summer of 1999 when I had hiked from Mexico to Lake Tahoe, but I was also in the summer of 2006 when I hiked from Lake Tahoe to Oregon, and I was also in the future hiking the remainder of the trail to Canada. I was still tracking the coyote. The dream ended when I awoke at 8 AM just a few hours ago. I didn’t know what it meant until now. The coyote had gotten me again. As the Lakota song of the coyote nation describes, “Around the edge I am traveling, around the edge I am traveling, in a sacred manner I am traveling.” The coyote is the trickster, the creator of experience, the holder of knowledge, the one who is always one step ahead, the one who moves just outside of your awareness patterns, but occasionally allows him/herself to be seen in order to break you out of your rut.
So why do I mention this dream in a description of White Pine’s history. Well the dream time is significant to us. The animals we track in the day come to us with messages in the night. The message that came to me last night is hard to put into words. The Pacific Crest Trail is one of my strongest connections with wilderness and with the spirit of the wanderer. It is the exact feeling I have when I am close to a coyote. It is that power of wild, excitement, fear and joy all wrapped into one primal feeling. It is that connection to earth that I cherish and want to share. It is what White Pine Wilderness Academy is founded on, the dreams, callings and spirit of the wilderness that draws us out of our comfort zones, to capture our most vital and impactful experiences, the experiences we will tell stories of for the rest of our lives. This vision comes from Ethan Runnels and from me, Matt Shull, the founders of Eehsipana Wilderness and Urban Survival School. The history of this school goes far beyond the founders.
Our history includes every elder, every instructor, every volunteer, every student and every child who has come here and found their own connection to the wild.