Photo taken in Khumbu (Mount Everest area), Nepal, June 2011. Dr Spoon has been conducting research on cultural change among the Sherpa in the Mt. Everest region since 2004. Photo: Sarah Jovan

From Generation to Generation

How Tamarack inspired me to help cultures thrive around the world

By Dr. Jeremy Spoon

Tamarack Camps served as a gateway to my self-awareness and self-reliance. It also provided me with critical life skills, which I utilize professionally. My years attending Brighton, Camp Maas and Agree are some of my fondest memories. It always felt like home and each year was a reunion with friends and place.

At camp, I was exposed to new, personally challenging activities and the dynamics of working in groups. I learned to practice my spirituality outdoors and look inside myself to find the divine. Short hiking and canoeing trips in Michigan later became extended adventures on the Western Trip and my first experience living sustainability “off-the-grid” at Agree.

As a counselor, I also learned how to be a leader among my peers and a role model to the younger generation of Jewish youth. Camp also exposed me to the appropriate scaffolding necessary to pass on cultural traditions from generation-to-generation in a large community setting.


Dr. Spoon and his collaborator Alisa Rai receiving khata (silk scarves) as a thank you by village representatives in Rasuwa, Nepal, March 2016. Photo: Bipin Lama.

I am now an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Portland State University. I have conducted anthropological fieldwork with indigenous peoples on four continents over the past 20 years. My research focus is the relationships between indigenous peoples and mountainous environments, especially in protected areas, such as national parks. I am also studying social-ecological transitions in the recovery following natural disasters using the devastating 2015 Nepal earthquakes as a case study.

My experiences at Tamarack Camps taught me various skills that I have extended to my work as an applied anthropologist, especially in contexts of rapid cultural change, social injustice or environmental degradation. For example, I assist Nuwuvi (Southern Paiute), Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service collaborators to annually plan and implement a multi-day inter-generational pine nut harvest in southern Nevada. The concept is to bring families together on lands that are part of their ancestral territory now controlled by the U.S. government to share knowledge from elders to youth and build rapport between tribes and federal agencies. The model for these events was inspired by my years at family camp, Brighton, Maas and Agree.

I feel very lucky to have been exposed to such a strong, accessible and generous Jewish community. I now utilize this gift to collaborate with indigenous and other peoples to reinforce their distinctive heritages while being firmly rooted in my own. Thanks, Tamarack!


Dr. Spoon and his collaborator Alisa Rai conducting a community meeting in the Nepali language to introduce an earthquake recovery research project in Rasuwa, Nepal, March 2016. Photo: Bipin Lama

Jeremy is the Associate Professor of Anthropology at Portland State University. He went to Tamarack as both a camper and a counselor (Camp Brighton: 1985-1987; Camp Maas: 1991; Western Trip: 1992; Camp Agree: 1993; Staff: 1994 and 1996).

For more information on Dr. Spoon’s projects see http://jeremyspoon.com or https://www.pdx.edu/anthropology/jeremy-spoon. You can contact him  at jspoon@pdx.edu

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