More than meets the eye
by Dude McLean & Alan Halcon
There always seems to be more to people that what meets the eye. As a society we tend to put him in that slot and her in that niche. Depending on the circumstances, the place where you would have first encountered Robin Blankenship, might influence the slot you would place her in. Whichever slot you chose, you would have been off base. Let’s take a look at this pre-eminent woman, primitive skills technologist, and teacher.
8 years into Robin's career as a primitive technologist, she decided to go to college where she earned a B.A. in English Literature with a minor in Spanish from the University of Colorado. She also received a B.S. in education with a Colorado Elementary teaching certification.
“When I started teaching, women didn't do this.”
Before college, in 1978, Robin was leading horse packing trips into the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness for Adventure Unlimited Ranches. She ended up directing their mountaineering program. She credits Bob Howe with creating a need in her to want a natural life style.
Next Robin found herself teaching for Larry Dean Olsen's School of Urban and Wilderness Survival and the National Outdoor Leadership School and Outward Bound… She was so skilled at that point there was no need to be a student of those schools before becoming and instructor.
Having taught, “Full on survival courses” for some of the top survival skills schools in the country since 1984, Robin desired to start her own school. In 1990 Robin, along with her then Husband Bart Blankenship, decided to step out and founded Earth Knack, offering primitive skills courses from cultures around the world.
At last Robins lifelong passion for the primitive was coming home. Robin was in the second grade at a boarding school when this old man stepped into her life and gave her a direction. Melvin Mathey was 62 then and was a kind of a Ben Hunt of his time. From the time she was 5 years of age until she was 14, she learned about plants, wood carving, pottery and many other Indian skills from this woodsman.
Every Year Robin throws a party with guest instructors like Doug Dahl, Sue Halverson and Ken Wee to name a few. The late George Stewart made all the Stone age tools that are used in the courses. They teach earth skills, plant and animal studies, ancient tools and weapons, hearth skills, cooking, fiber weaving, fire making, atlatl, pottery and much more.
Robin has been making many changes in her earth knack courses since 1999. She now is offering blacksmithing, straw bale house building and what she terms pioneering primitive skills. Robin feels primitive skills and pioneering skills all fit together.
Strawbale house? Yep, Robin designs and builds these earth friendly homes from the ground up.
“Cross Culture skills cover all skills because its about living”
Robin is very hands on and has never stopped learning and being fascinated with all primitive skills and beyond. During Winter Count 2005, she led a class on the many uses of elk legs, showing how to utilize each and every part… nothing was wasted!
She studied trapping, following a trapline, with George Michaud. The ever crusty and outspoken George had nothing but the highest praise for her.
“Robin just gets it done” and seems to have the feel for all things primitive, George is not easily impressed… He was!
I will never forget the first time I met Robin. Although I had known her by reputation, I had never actually met her. I was sitting in a trendy L.A. café waiting for Janet Snyder and Robin. Seeing Robin walk into this “Showbiz hangout” in her buckskin dress, a belt knife on her hip was a sight not to be forgotten… I was impressed. Later on that same evening Robin along with Janet and my self joined Christopher Nyerges where he was teaching a Primitive skills class at a local College. Robin Jumped right in to help teach the students the Bow and Drill. She gave me a private lesson on how to make the promontory peg trap trigger. Robin is not afraid to show you all the she knows on a subject and loves to share primitive arts, crafts and skills.
A Stone-Age Book
In 1996 Robin co-authored a book with then husband Bart Blankenship, “Earth Knack Stone-age skills for the 21st Century”. It is a comprehensive how-to book enabling the reader and the abo wanna-be to participate and learn the ancient skills,
I asked Robin what was her favorite skill to teach she answered “Fire” and left me with this quote:
“Fire making is a perceived empowerment, making meat (food) is real empowerment”
her other interests in life include canoeing, horseback riding and astrology, She has taught astrology at the American Museum of Natural History and the Denver Museum. She has a passion for “tall ships” and has lived on a 3 masted tall ship for six months.
Robin's one passion in life was to be a mother… she has three children!
Have you joined us in our observation? “More Than meets the Eye!