In 1988, twenty-six Wilderness Guides gathered for the first time at Saline Hot Springs in the Eastern Sierras.
The invitation to "compare notes, entertain new ideas, speculate about the future and to relax in the company of friends and colleagues," came from Steven Foster, Meredith Little and Ron Pevny and was directed to individuals in the newly emerging field of the modern day vision fast.
Over 25 years later, our world has changed in myriad ways. Wilderness rites of passage has begun its long journey out of the shadows. Today, ecopsychology has become commonplace in many states across the US. Select universities will give credit for participation in vision fast programs. There are both more guides and more people in search of vision fast and related wilderness programs than ever before. With the field of rites of passage entering the mainstream consciousness, new challenges arise - asking our attention, vision, and discernment alongside the core mission of bringing meaningful rites of passage to more people.
So what have we been up to since then?
Since 1992, (the next gathering after Saline) we have met every year, for 23 years, in varying locations in California. For more info on our gatherings, go to our GATHERINGS page.
We committed to being a true network, providing all members equal access to contribute to the ongoing evolution of the Wilderness Guides Council, much like a "knotted fish net with a multitude of nodes or cells of varying sizes, each linked to all the others, a segmented, polycephalous (many headed) network" (Virginia Hine), instead of the usual top down organizational model.
Marilyn Hendee (formerly Riley) became our founding netkeeper, facilitating node coordination, member communication, and fostering the expansion of our net. Under her dedicated tutelage the Wilderness Guides Council formalized its name, purpose, membership standards, and Wilderness Ethics Statement. We grew to over 200 members in 1999. Wow! A tribute to a labor of love. Truly, without Marilyn, we wouldn't be here today.
Following the rapid growth of our childhood years, we entered a period of challenge and contraction. The fast growth of membership confronted us with many conflicting ideas of how we should organize, operate, and even make routine decisions. Friction was among us. The following economic downturn added to the membership loss. Nonetheless, over the next 10 years, under the guidance of our next 3 Netkeepers (Farion Pearce, Scout Tomyris, and Munro Sickafoose), we would continue to develop and refine our core structures. Thank God for their long breath, hard work, and great big hearts.
To no surprise, the gifts that emerged from years of hard labor are many: Our commitment to use the ancient way of COUNCIL and the pratice of CONSENSUS whenever possible; the formation of our WGC BYLAWS and the establishment of our 501c(6) status; a set of heartfelt Community and Conflict Resolution Guidelines that provide solid ground and a safe container for the inevitable storms that will pass through us from time to time; and the wisdom of broadening our governing base by the many volunteer circles that embody our pursuit at interdependent autonomy.
These tools have created the mature backbone of the WGC today and allow Petra Lentz-Snow, the current Netkeeper, to take the WGC to new horizons, figuratively and literally. The projects underfoot are many: from becoming an official 501c(3) non-profit to accept tax-deductible donations in the future; expanding our international membership; aiming to offer a comprehensive world-wide online search directory for vision fast and related programs; to the commitment to visit new bio regions outside of California for our gatherings, providing support for local communities of guides in different parts of the US. And, and, and....
But hold on, this doesn't belong on this History Page, does it? Or is what we aim to live into also part of our history? How can it not be, all future vision being at heart informed by all that has gone before...
Truth is, the question that was born in the hot water of the Saline springs some 25 years ago, "How can we support each other in bringing meaningful Rites of Passage to mor and more of our people?" is as vital as ever today. May we continue to live into it.
SELECT HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS BELOW:
- An inquiry into the purpose statement written in 1994 that is testimony to the amazing vision of these two beloved founders of the modern rite of passage movement. Spot on, and surprisingly applicable today, they were ahead of their time in so many ways. A timeless compilation of questions that we continue to live into.
- Netkeeper from 1992 to 2001, Marilyn Riley gives us a detailed and passionate account of the early years of the WGC. Although retired from the guide business since 2003, Marilyn continues to be an active member within our network, lending vital support to the community, especially in the area of education and outreach, where she guides us on with her unique elder and founder perspective.
FOR MORE HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS GO TO OUR RESOURCE PAGE AND FILTER BY 'WILDERNESS GUIDES COUNCIL'.