Registration is now open for the Saskatoon Circle Primitive and Traditional Living Skills Gathering at Skalitude Retreat, located in the upper reaches of the Libby Creek drainage. The week-long experience is organized by Katie Russell Sorenson, owner of Wilderbabe LLC, and scheduled June 17 through 23 this year.
For more than a decade, Saskatoon Circle has offered workshops with skilled instructors to learn hide tanning, basket weaving, foraging, herbal medicine, leatherwork, metal working and more. This year, 40 teachers are in line to offer 40 courses. “Classes are the heartbeat of gathering, why people come,” Katie explained. “The instructors are masters of their craft, with works in galleries and museums.”
Katie’s professional background offering wilderness therapy to troubled teens led to the formation of Wilderbabe LLC. A young client coined the term “Wilderbabe” after gaining confidence in the wilderness. “They were empowered and capable of being out in the woods,” Katie noted. After co-organizing Saskatoon Circle in the beginning years, Wilderbabe LLC wholly absorbed the organization of the annual event several years ago.
Along her path, Katie also started Buffalo Bridge, a yearly event to support the Nez Perce buffalo hunt outside Yellowstone National Park. She and others help Montana tribes in field dressing, meat processing and hide tanning during the traditional hunt. Her efforts over the years to build bridges between cultures and foster meaningful relationships led to a rich teacher resource for Saskatoon Circle. Past instructors have included Native Americans from the Dakotas, Montana and the Pacific Northwest. Instructors teach traditional skills and crafts, and how to honor the land with sustainable practices.
Most classes last the entire week, some are shorter, at only a half day. Some of the week-long classes include processing an entire animal – tanning the hide, sewing a garment and preparing the meat. Another course is how to “foster abundance” while foraging for edible wild plants, tending the land to ensure a sustainable future harvest. For a multitude of logistical reasons, class schedules are not set until the first day of Saskatoon Circle.
Saskatoon Circle is designed to be family-friendly and inclusive for all ages. Kids programs are provided for ages 4 and up. Morning and afternoon activities include guided hikes, building shelters, archery with padded arrows, and craft projects. Last year there were 46 kids enrolled for week-long activities. Older kids can participate in the adult classes if approved by instructor.
Breakfast and dinner are included in the registration cost. Meals incorporate some of the wild foods gathered by participants at Saskatoon Circle, and collected over the past year by organizers. Dinners will include rabbits and goats from the “hoof to table” courses. Ronda Bradeen will prepare her famous roasted rabbit with herbs and wine, including wild rice that was gathered in northern Idaho and processed in a class on site that week. Buffalo Bridge donated buffalo meat to the organization for another dinner.
Instructors hold evening programs with slideshows. This year, evening entertainment will include a circus of acrobats, jugglers and more. On the solstice, there will be an all-ages celebration of the longest day of the year, and the beginning of summer.
Early season ticket sales are on sliding scale of $300-$400 with discounts for seniors and children. The price for one adult includes five full days of classes, camping, and two meals a day. Day rates are $50. Scholarships are offered for Native Americans with a tribal membership. Early season ticket sales end on May 31, and prices increase on June 1. Dogs need to registered, and there is a pet fee. For more information, visit www.saskatooncircle.com.