Indigenous

Anishinaabe woodsman takes his outdoor survival classes online

Caleb Musgrave from Hiawatha First Nation who owns an outdoor survival and land-based learning company, is offering classes online after COVID-19 forced in-person classes to be cancelled.

'I hate the idea of a bunch of kids sitting around just playing video games and then getting bored'

Caleb Musgrave's Anishinaabe sugar bush class usually draws upwards of 50 people interested in learning how maple syrup is processed in a traditional Anishinaabe way. He had to cancel it this year because of COVID-19 restrictions. (Rhiannon Johnson/CBC)

Ever wanted to learn how to make rope out of tree bark or how to make syrup from tree sap? Now you can without leaving your home.

Caleb Musgrave, owner and operator of Canadian Bushcraft, an outdoor education school, is offering free online classes while the school is shut down due to COVID-19 concerns.

"We're just trying to reach out to the community, make sure that people still learn and enjoy themselves in the woods," said Musgrave, an Anishinaabe man from Hiawatha First Nation near Peterborough, Ont.

Usually Musgrave runs about 50 outdoor classes a year starting in January, teaching everything from outdoor survival to making baskets and even crafting canoes. 

"We were supposed to have this past weekend an Anishinaabek sugar bush workshop," said Musgrave.

He had to cancel the class that usually draws upwards of 50 people interested in learning how maple syrup is processed in a traditional Anishinaabe way. 

He said that class is the school's bread and butter, with its fees going to fund supplies for the classes through the rest of the year. 

For just over 20 years, Caleb Musgrave has been learning about how to live off the land. (Caleb Musgrave/Facebook)

"That's also our big celebration, like 'Welcome back to Canadian Bushcraft. It's the new year, let's enjoy ourselves in the bush,'" he said. 

"And [COVID-19 restrictions] really well, flat out killed it. We couldn't do it."

'Family friendly videos' 

For just over 20 years, Musgrave has been learning about how to live off the land the way his ancestors did. 

"I was the weird kid that preferred being at the town park in the pond, looking at the turtles and trying to sneak up on blue herons," he said. 

His parents fostered his interest in the land and he was able to learn from survivalists and Indigenous men and women who taught him traditional aspects of living on the land. 

Canadian Bushcraft's classes take place at Musgrave's "Camp Mud" that's a short walk off a dirt road in Hiawatha First Nation. 

The camp has a classroom area and places for people to set up tents or hammocks during the weekend-long classes. 

"It's a pretty rustic spot," he said.

"It's pretty bare bones, but that's how we like it."

After cancelling upcoming bush classes, Musgrave said he started to get stir crazy so he decided to do free workshops online.

"The first session we did was knife skills and just what kind of tools we take in the woods," he said. 

"The next workshop or video was about making rope from bark in the woods."

Musgrave said he's trying to keep the company relevant and also be helpful to the community by offering these videos. 

"I hate the idea of a bunch of kids sitting around just playing video games and then getting bored after a few hours and just having nothing to do." 

He said the videos are family friendly and there's nothing too dangerous involved. 

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