Alumni Questionnaire ← Back to Index
Your name, first and last.
To which institutions were you sent?
Missanabie Woods Academy
How old were you?
Date you entered The Program/ Date you left.
1980; I was only there in the summer.
What was the highest level you attained?
I don't recall such levels. We had ranks. Perhaps they had not started using these levels, or I was there too short a time for it to matter. I did advance in rank and usually had second rank in my squad. Everything was handled by rank; things such as what food you got to eat... when there was a bread roll there you had to ask: “Would any one before me (higher rank) like this roll?” And starting with the squad leader going on down the line people would have the option to eat it. If they didn't want it you could have it.
Please describe the circumstances that got you sent to The Program, i.e. trouble with law, issues with parents, problems at school, etc.
No problems at all. I was a pretty innocent little guy. Grew up in a loving environment.
The trip was to be to a survival camp in Ontario and was a reward from my parents to me for good schoolwork. I had a lot of wilderness experience. The brochure was total misrepresentation of that the place was about. After I arrived it was obviously not what was advertised and my parents called to get me out. Most of the students there seemed to have been sent my the courts.
Oddly, I chose to stay. And I did try to use the place for my benefit regardless of its messed up nature. I had been kinda of wuss and the experience did make me tougher, though I think it damaged me emotionally as well. I didn't mind the hard work as I was used to that. If I recall right, I got runner up for student of the year. My name should be on a plaque somewhere. The other students thought I was wacked for choosing to stay.
Which house were you in?
Squad 3. We had a bunkhouse over near to the canoe docks. The other two squads shared a bunkhouse I believe. My impression was that Squad three was for sort of smart guys. Squads 1 and 2 were divided by wusses, and tough guys. I was happy I was not placed in the wuss squad. There were girls in a camp across the inlet, but I had no contact with them though we went over once to put out a fire in their camp.
Please describe instances of abuse you experienced while in the program, if any.
Program director Bud Teare is the only person in my life to assault me. (Except a drugged out dude on the street once and a girlfriend who hit me once.) Our bunkhouse was not clean so they lined us up and each of us was hit on the face. I think it was the side of the face. I fell down and didn't want to get up because I didn't want to get up again. They told me to get up so I did because I was afraid they would kick me. They had kicked another student (Kent) in the stomach when he was already lying on the ground earlier. I wrote how I thought that was wrong in my journal. They read the journal and then Bud and a tall guy with a beard whose name I forgot came to correct my thinking and show my why they need to use these techniques.
I never agreed with them inside but I didn't argue anymore and certainly wasn't going to be honest in “my” journal.
I got punished for some little things like I asked if the water for post-meal cleanup had arrived... I had just walked past it without noticing it so I had to go walk off the dock. Certainly walking off the dock is no big deal; just kinda cold. I was kinda a spaced out person and still am. It is just how I am by nature.
I do not appreciate being assaulted.
There are many other examples of their violence and ineptitude. It is all pretty classic brainwashing techniques being used by less than skilled people.
James Leach(?) was a sadistic man there. I recall that right after my 48 hour survival solo he demanded that I take my axe test. My whole body was weak and I said I didn't wish to be he was in charge and made me. I did poorly of course not having eaten, except for a few plants, for a couple days. He really enjoyed watching me fail. I had no lack of skill with an axe as I grew up cutting wood and trees.
There was also a sadistic assistant squad leader from another squad but luckily I only had contact with him when were were out on some multi-squad hike. It is the same kind of sadism encouraged in fraternities when they haze pledges. One generation of abuse breeds another.
Other students had a far worse time that me because I was cooperative and did not fight the program. “Fronting” is the term used, I believe. Some students apprently had experience with “Mr. Black” a rubber strap they were hit with. I have no personal knowledge of that though. I just cooperated and worked hard while knowing these people were seriously damaged. It took one guy three days to convince them that he has broken his leg on the ropes course. They should have better medical training. Eventually they took him out and got his leg set and put in a cast. He was kinda a whiner so maybe that makes it understandable.
Describe abuse of other students you witnessed, if any.
They had kicked another student (Kent) in the stomach when he was already lying on the ground. I got the impression that my squad was generally less trouble than the others. I did not see many cases of actual physical abuse and it is harder to tell what mental abuse is. Certainly some kids do need some tough experiences to get them in tune with civilized behavior. The program directors could use some help in that area as well.
Do you have any good memories of The Program? What are they?
We jumped off some cliffs into the lake. That was fun and scary.
I liked the competitions and did very well in them. Memory is fuzzy on this... but I recall first place in Orienteering and Survival Solo. Second in a canoe race. I don't remember the rest.
There were some nice people there as well. An older guy who taught me how to build things a little. I think his name was Garret. I wish I could have spent more time with him. I assume he has since died. He was a real Christian.
My squad leader was named Brad I think. He was ok.
I kinda wonder what happened to the other guys in squad 3. They were odd people. I never got to know them too well though. we were not supposed to talk about personal things. I was only 14 and not very socially skilled either.
The work was hard. We carried heavy logs that cut the skin off our shoulders. And I was on the saw squad working long hours trying to break out records for making boards out of logs. That was pretty fun in a painful kind of way.
What is your overall impression of The Program - did it “help you”?
It helped me be less weak and be able to handle pain well. It helped me to crush my emotions.
Certainly the experience taught me how twisted “Authority” can be.
These people have serious problems. These kinds of people should not be in the business of “helping” youth, especially not youth who are having some problems. Maybe it is different now. I doubt it. It does seem like they couldn't get away with such stuff as they did when I was there in a world of internet etc... but maybe they can. When I was there, there was supposely a Canadian mail strike so there was no contact via letters. The only time I had outside contact was the phone call from my parents.
I do not see the program as christian in any way. They just use the words of christianity to support they messed up program. Christ would hate to have his name associated with this stuff. It isn't a good survial training program either. Maybe it can teach city kids something but it certainly isn't very advanced.
I was never really the same after that. I was no longer was open with people and I never told anyone about the things that happened there. This letter is the most I have ever said. There are many other small stories, but I don't care much about this stuff. They are just a tiny part of the messed up world of violence and hate.
Though the program was good for me in some ways, I think I would have been a much healthier person and been better off not having gone.
What do you think of the quality of education you received?
Unimpressive. I was expecting a wilderness survival school. Not a brainwashing survival school. They lied about what the program was. Most of the activities and training listed in the brochure never happened.
We did build a pretty big dining hall. They didn't really try to teach of how to do it though. We were just the labor.
How old are you today?
Did you go to college afterward? If so, what degrees do you have?
I went to the University of Washington and have a degree in Editorial Journalism from the School of Communications.
What is your profession?
I am an artist. Painter.
Do you consider yourself a Christian today?
No. The actual words of Christ I am fine with, but the rest of it and a lot of the church don't seem to be Christian. I like Zen a lot. Perhaps I am an Anamist or Pantheist. I am mostly a philosophical materialist.
What effect did “The Program” have on your faith?
I no longer believed in a judeo-christain diety after I was 12 years old.
The faith of a child did not become the faith of a man, though the culture and ethics of much of loving chritianity I retain to this day.
The program did not affect my faith in any way though I did see a pretty ugly side of christianity in some things there. Bud Teare told us he was in favor of the deuteronomy solution to homosexuality which he said is to put a millstone around their neck and throw them in a lake.
But... I tried to see the loving christianity I was exposed to growing up as pretty different than the twisted version that these folks seemed to be following.