The Shikari Wilderness System is a living map that guides the traveler through the ancient labyrinth of Wilderness Skills and Community Design.
We have found the Shikari System to be an invaluable cultural adaptation for helping people discover their path and purpose within nature, community and ancestry.
Shikari is a Wilderness Rubric comprised of 9 separate Pathways, each Pathway grounded in 5 Guilds, each Guild advancing through 5 progressive levels culminating in a Quest.
This curriculum inspires all of the programs at White Pine. Our Forest-School and After-School Camps provide a ’soft’ introduction to Shikari throughout the year, while Teens and Adults can focus their training on a specific Pathway, through Clubs, Workshops, Overnights and Expeditions.
We invite you to join us in this dynamic experiment of reconnection and find your place within the Shikari Tribe.
Choose your Pathway to learn more.
The Forest for the Trees
The Shikari Wilderness System came into existence in the Eastern Woodlands of Indiana on the banks of the Wapahani River. It is an expression of 3 great Lineages; Primitive Technology, Shikari and 8 Shields.
The Shikari Lineage can be traced back a thousand years to the ancient jungles of India where the transition from a traditional hunter gatherer lifestyle to one based on agriculture was taking place. It was here under the shadow of the majestic Himalayas in primordial habitats teeming with life, including the world’s apex predators, where the continents most ancient civilizations thrived. To these Ancients the jungle was, and still remains, home. It was the tracking, awareness, survival and scouting skills of these Indegenous Guides that earned them the title and position of ‘Shikari’. The Shikari skills became so revered throughout India that an official post of Shikari District Manager was created for every region in Northern India.
Famous author and Kumaon Shikari District Manager Jim Corbett states, “No mention is made in government records of man-eaters prior to the year 1905”, meaning, there were no incidents to report. This is a true testament to the ‘Jungle etiquette’ that Jim Corbett writes so beautifully about. However, human expansion was relentless throughout the 20th century putting overwhelming pressure on the hunter gatherer population as well as the remaining apex predators. These big cats were surprisingly peaceful in yielding their territory. Except for the rare occasion that a big cat was wounded, whereupon under great distress, they would resort to the practice of hunting man. Upon experiencing this ‘easy prey’ there was no turning back. The legendary Temple Tiger killed over 300 people in his 20 year reign of terror before finally being tracked and brought down by Jim Corbett on his third attempt. Time after time it was the skills of the Shikari that served to guide and protect man.
A Shikari is an Ambassador of Nature, they are the synthesis of all the Pathways within this training system, they are a Leader, an Ascetic, a Healer, a Protector, a Practitioner, a Shadow, a Provider, a Tracker, and a Guide.
The Shikari Lineage accounts for the first western documentation of inter-species communication, not as a scientific theory but as common survival knowledge and an integral part to maintaining “jungle etiquette”.
The Shikari Lineage also holds the honor of bringing about modern conservation in India. Much like the majestic Yosemite, preserved by the ‘Grandfather of Conservation’ John Muir, India’s Jim Corbett Nature Preserves are a testament to his love and passion for nature. Were it not for the Shikari Lineage it’s doubtful any big cats would remain in India.
Matt’s Grandfather Ernie Shull, spent 20 years in India as the Dangs District Shikari Manager. Here Ernie’s skills were called upon routinely including in the harvest of the infamous Man Eating Leopard of Subir. This is where Matt’s father Dan was born and raised. For 25 years Ernie mentored Matt in the core routines of Shikari. More importantly Ernie provided an example of a life filled with passion, connection and purpose with the Natural World. As a result, Ernie’s life and teaching, like all Shikari’s, will live on for generations. It is a great honor for us to offer this unique training system, we hope you will find the same passion, connection and purpose that has inspired us.
Shikari is a living evolving System with 9 Pathways, each offering fair and trusted passage into an elite group of peers.
Each of the 9 Pathways in the Shikari System are comprised of –
5 Needles of Training
5 Tiers of Progression for each Guild
Pathways culminate in Quests, highly personal endeavors that follow the same general format of countless Quests before them.
Challenges, acknowledgments and rights of passage are an ancient tried and true method of community design. These systems can take centuries to develop.
Undergoing these challenges with the support of the community and a mentor offers extensive opportunity for “evaluation”. Those who have met the requirements of this evaluation process are offered the Right of Passage into an elite group of peers known as a Council.
All of the Practitioners, Evaluators, Elders, and Ancestors of any level make up the Council of that Pathway.
All of us together make up the Shikari Community.
Oath (Needle 1)
The Oath should be recited now and then and memorized for each challenge. Small mistakes can be permitted at the Coyote and Wolf levels but none for Warrior and Shadow. This Needle adds a reverence to training and ceremony. It is a powerful practice that invokes the Archetype of each Shield.
Protocols and Prohibitions (Needle 2)
Protocols and Prohibitions add safety and mindfulness to training. The Protocols and Prohibitions of each Pathway should be described with increasing expectations for each level. The mentor and students should review these critical aspects as a part of routine training. For example, ‘A Tanner should Never leave decomposing animal parts in inappropriate places, to do so is to break our agreement of Respect Life’.
Ancestors, Elders, Heroes (Needle 3)
The Mentor can select any Ancestor, Elder or Hero from the Shield they are training in and the student should be able to describe, with increased expectations, who that person is. Needle 3 is an evolving Database that we add to continually. Several times a year we go into Drive with great reverence to add a new Hero or to shift the status of a community member from Hero to Elder or from Elder to Ancestor.
Alien Test (Needle 4)
Each Alien Test is now available to view and research. A student’s answers to randomly selected Alien Test questions give the Mentor a good assessment of a student’s scientific advancement. The Alien test should serve as a foundation for learning, but questions should not be limited to the test.
Roughly speaking new Council members should be able to answer this number of questions from the Alien Test correctly, with little to no mistakes;
Coyote- 5 Questions, Wolf- 10 Questions, Warrior- 15 Questions, Shadow- 20 Questions
PC- Physical Challenge/ Packing and Caching (Needle 5)
The Physical Challenges Each of the skills and challenges have their own page in this binder with a drawing and explanation. Like the Alien Test, the 5th Needle Challenges listed in the handbook should be viewed more as a base assessment of the students’ advancement than a checklist to accomplish.
Packing and Caching is an essential component to 5th Needle training. It follows the 5 tiered progression of High Speed Survival designed by our Mentor Matt Smith and finds a unique expression in each Pathway.
Training takes the form of physical practice, storytelling, research, play, reciting of the Oaths, inviting in Elders and Heroes, at home missions etc. Band/Tie Evals and Quests are merely an extension of that Training.
Only students motivated by this training should participate, it is NOT required.
All Mentors should train in the Shikari System in order to become an Evaluator.
All Mentors and students should begin with Coyote and work their way up to Shadow.
A Quest can be endeavored whenever one feels called or the Mentor deems fit.
White Pine facilitates 45 Guilds.
Each Guild progresses through Coyote, Wolf, Warrior, Shadow and Quest. The Shikari System is comparable to a belt system in martial arts.
Coyote- Should be attainable by any motivated student age Flying Squirrel or older, after 1-3 years of training.
Wolf- Should be attainable by any motivated student age Scout or older, after 1-3 years of training.
Warrior- Should be attainable by any motivated student or Mentor age Teen or older, after 3 or more years of training.
Shadow- Should require up to a decade of training and be attainable by only the most accomplished Practitioners in the Community
Quest- A Quest is a sacred and personal endeavor. A Hero is one who has completed a Quest. To Enter a Council at the Quest Level is to be acknowledged as an Elder or one who has lived a life dedicated to Quests within that Pathway.
Bands and Ties (Right of Passage into Council)
The Shikari Band is made from grain off, brain tanned, smoked, deer hide. Bands are 60” long and 1 3/4” wide.
Bands are earned by a student undergoing “evaluation” which can take months or years.
Shikari Bands are tanned by the Mentor and gifted to students as part of their Ceremonial right of passage into a Council.
Shikari Bands should serve students in their lifelong journey through the Shikari Labyrinth.
Shikari Bands are Sacred and should be treated as Ceremonial Paraphernalia.
Bands can be hung up at an Inside Sit Spot, tied to one’s backpack or around the neck under a shirt.
Bands should be given with two hands and received with two hands.
Bands should have the 9 Pathways marked.
Bands should have the student/ practitioners initials at the bottom.
-Mentors please note, Tanning is a comprehensive guild and each hide requires up to 15 hours of work. A full deer hide should yield at least a dozen bands. A dozen bands is a fantastic goal for a Mentor/ Evaluator to facilitate each year.
Follow the Shikari Tanning Guild and comparable YouTube playlist for help. https://www.youtube.org/playlist?list=PL6cF8eGs4ZB67DFdo7jZGcS079gxw9_BC
For more thorough instruction we highly recommend you check out Matt Richards braintanning dvd from the library-
Shikari Ties are made from cotton cloth in the colors of green, tan, red, gray and white.
Ties are 30” long and 1” wide.
The Evaluator notes the Pathway on the Tie with a fine tip permanent marker and can fill in any medicine images or notes if desired.
The Tie is attached to the Band by making a small parallel slit in the middle of the Band with a knife and baton. The Tie is slipped through the slit and tied with a slip knot.
If the student advances within the Council, the new Tie can replace the old one, in which case the old Tie should be burned in Ceremony. Shadow and Quest Ties should not be burned and should stay attached to the Band.
Routine training, where the Oath is recited, protocols and prohibitions integrated, Ancestors, Elders and Heroes honored with stories and their presence, complemented by focused Guild training, and at home species journal challenges to chip away at the Alien Test, is truly a thing of beauty. A well planned camp is, in fact, a dynamic living Ceremony. Leave room for magic in every plan, but make no mistake, Shikari advancement will not be possible without Routine.
A Council includes all Members, Evaluators, Ancestors, Shikaris, Elders, and Heroes of that Pathway. It is essential to remain in collaboration with the Council as students advance on that Pathway. The Council is in charge of maintaining the integrity of the Evaluations and thereby the integrity of the Council.
The Democratic hierarchy of Councils looks like this:
Ancestors – Shikaris – Elders – Shadows (Senior Evaluators)- Warriors – Wolves – Coyotes.
Evaluations between a Shikari and a Lead Instructor tend to be intense multi hour long events. This is not necessary for Mentors that spend several hours a week with their students. In a sense, the students are always being “evaluated”. If it is clear that a student is advancing in multiple guilds and multiple needles within a Path, the Mentor can suggest extra training wherever the student needs development. A few pointed Alien test questions in circle, an arrow-story to emphasize a prohibition or an inspiring Elder story can go a long way. Much like a BJJ belt, passage into a Council can be approved without the student even being aware that they were being considered.
Students can also request an Evaluation if they feel they are ready. Due to the student’s stated ambition, the Mentor can now make more ambitious suggestions as to where the student needs growth. The Mentor can also begin a more active collaboration with the Council to prepare.
An Eval is simply a grounded assessment of a student’s advancement within the Path they are training in. The 5 Needle Eval sheet can help the Mentor record the students progress on each of the 5 Needles over time. These sheets can be utilized to track progress for months, even years (Matt keeps Eval sheets for each of his students in his personal Shikari Eval binder, please do the same for your students).
A Shikari Eval is more like a guiding framework than a standardized test. If the student has passed all 5 Needles in all 5 Guilds but is still struggling with Respecting Others then the Council may choose to forgo the right of passage into the Council until improvement is seen.
Mentors should aim for quality over quantity with the Shikari Councils.
That being said, the students will only be motivated by this Shikari System if their Mentors, Elders and Peers are. We should aim to facilitate this Rite of Passage for any student that is ready.
The Council (Ancestors, Shikaris, Elders, Heroes and Members) should be updated with regard to a student’s advancement within a Pathway. The Council can then be a part of the decision (with Elders having the final say) as to the acceptance or denial of passage into the Council.
The Ceremonial Right of Passage into a Council is acknowledged with the gifting of a Band and or Tie by the Evaluator. The Council is then updated in our database, printed out for the relevant handbook and the wider Shikari community is notified.
Public Ceremony and MC
A Public acknowledgement of entry into a Council is sometimes done in the Contributors Guild, during Summer Camp, or on the last day of a Unit in Forest School or After School.
A Public Ceremony is in no way necessary. The Shikari System leans more towards the BJJ belt system that quietly acknowledges a student’s passage into a Council.
That being said, occasionally the timing is just right to inspire and engage new practitioners with a public acknowledgement.
In these instances, make sure the Public Ceremony is communicated with the student’s Family.
Be sure to invite the Council (this adds authenticity) who can have Ceremonial roles like opening or closing words.
A single needle of an Eval (like the Oath) can be incorporated by the student in the Public Ceremony as an option. Please note, this would be only to give context to the Ceremony, not to Evaluate the student publicly. The student has already undergone their Eval, the Council has Reviewed and a Ceremony has been called to acknowledge the student’s successful Right of Passage into a Council or to a more advanced level within an existing Council.
A Ceremony is to acknowledge the Hero’s Right of Passage. It is our responsibility as The Master of Ceremonies, to make it special.
Good Luck and Have Fun!
Quests, Heroes, and Elders
A Quest does not require Needles 1-4 or any other system of acknowledgement. A Quest is a sacred personal endeavor and may be accomplished by students of any age, thereby making them a Hero within that Guild. Fulfilling a Quest does not earn one passage into a Council nor does it guarantee advancement within a Council. Rather, Councils should be regarded as the Support System that trains students to accomplish Quests.
A person who carries a White Tie should be acknowledged as a Council Elder or one who has dedicated their life to the Path.
In some cases an Elder may be acknowledged without having accomplished Shadow or even Coyote level within that Pathway.
A White Tie does not qualify an Elder to be an Evaluator. For example, because of his lifelong dedication to the Protectors Pathway, Ryan Hadley is acknowledged as a Protectors Council Elder, but he is still working his way through the Shikari System to improve his 4th Needle and his Packing and Caching before he is acknowledged as a Senior Evaluator at the Shadow Level.
Therefore the highest accomplishment within any Pathway is side by side Shadow and Quest Ties, marking one as a Senior Evaluator and as an Elder.
One that has earned side by side Shadow and Quest Ties in multiple Pathways will earn consideration for entrance into the Shikari Council.
Coyote- Senior Evaluator/ Elder of 3 Pathways
Wolf- Senior Evaluator/ Elder of 4 Pathways
Warrior – Senior Evaluator/ Elder of 5 Pathways
Shadow- Senior Evaluator/ Elder of 6 Pathways
Quest- Senior Evaluator/ Elder of 9 Pathways
Welcome to the Shikari Journey. Let us begin-
The Hero’s Path.
“We have not even to risk the adventure alone for the Heroes of all time have gone before us. The Labyrinth is thoroughly known … we have only to follow the thread of the Hero Path.
And where we had thought to find an abomination we shall find a God. And where we had thought to slay another we shall slay ourselves. Where we had thought to travel outwards we shall come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone we shall be with all the world.” -Joseph Campbell