Kim Pasche, 35 years old, spends nine months out of the year in Northern Canada. He hunts moose by bow and arrow, tans leather for clothing and builds camps for shelter. He wants to “rewild” himself and learn to live like hunter-gatherers. The rest of the time, he travels around the world to share his experience.
Kim Pasche is 35 years old. With a slight Swiss accent, he discusses the radical choice he made twelve years ago to live eight months out of the year as a hunter-gather. An experimental archeologist, he is trying to rewild himself by hunting, gathering and building his own home. It is a quest to return to nature and find his roots. His wife and six-year-old daughter live between Paris and Brussels. He sees them several months per year.
When he returns to the modern world, Kim travels around Europe to spread his knowledge. Between planes and trains, he gives courses on his website, is in a documentary about his lifestyle, writes a book on first men’s survival skills, or designs curriculum with aboriginal Canadians. He does not consider his quest to be a self-centered pursuit.
Can you describe yourself?
I am 35 years old. I was born in Moudon, which is north of Lausanne…
Rather early on, during my studies in archeology, I became specialized in prehistory. That led to me spending more and more time in the Yukon, a province in Northern Canada near Alaska, eventually making it my primary residence. You can say that I am an urban dweller who is trying to rewild myself. I am exploring how I can return to the life of a hunter-gatherer. I have been working on this for twelve years. I am trying to pursue an active process without it becoming too brutal. I am rewilding myself, but I am not yet wild. From time to time, I really miss pasta. It is a compromise, I take modern amenities and I try to rid myself of them.
Do you have a family?
For many years, my companion and I had a relationship without living together. We saw each other two months out of the year, but we have a six-month-old daughter now. My wife spent four months in the Yukon this year: end of summer, fall, and beginning of winter. Other than that, she continues to live between Paris and Brussels. She is a costume designer. She is half Lapp, so she is a little bit wild herself. That allows her to easily adapt to my lifestyle in the Yukon, but she does not aspire to the lifestyle enough to spend more than several weeks a year here.
Can you describe a typical year?
My life is divided into two parts. During the year, I spend eight to ten months outdoors in a 4500km² area in the Yukon. I travel everywhere by foot, snowshoe, skis, dogsled, and from time to time snow mobile. It is where I work and experiment with this alternative lifestyle.
The second part of the year is the complete opposite. I often take planes, I travel all over. For example, I left the forest in the beginning of January. I took a plane to Colombia where I worked with indigenous populations. Then, I returned to Europe for several months: Spain, France, Switzerland, etc… I am always on the road.
In the Yukon, how do you prepare supplies? What do you live in?
My landing strip is a kilometer long (laughs). Here everything is on the Canadian scale. The Yukon is the size of Spain with only 32,000 inhabitants. In general, I arrive by plane with basic supplies. I bring one-third of my food stock and find the other two-thirds.
There is a cabin on the land. It is a gateway, the border between the wilderness and modern world. I stock survival supplies there. I have a generator, a satellite telephone to communicate, medicine. A several day walk away, I have one camp and then others that are set up in the prehistoric style. When I go there, I leave behind three-quarters of the modern world. Each year, I strip away a little bit more. For example, I had a Decathlon backpack. When I was able to replace it with a leather bag I made, I did. It’s the same thing with my axe, my knife, etc…
How do you manage this?
In the beginning, I had this idea of rewilding myself. I realized that when we replace one object with another, we are just playing with the form. If we do not work on the function, we fail. Replacing a modern sleeping bag with a primitive sleeping bag is very naive. You have to think about what it means to sleep. Picasso said, “the greatest challenge is to unlearn.” This is true because you have to unlearn the object, unlearn how it works, unlearn the idea you have of it, your representation of it.
What is a typical day like?
Every day is different. I might only fish for salmon for an entire week. For three weeks, I will chase after caribou to try to catch one. I arrive on one mountain, and then realize that the caribou are on the other side. It is a game of cat and mouse. Then, there are times in winter when there is not much to do. I work on my furs or my arrows. There is free time. While in summer, you have to hurry to get things done.
And on another note, I prefer to say that I am a hunter-collector because I do not just gather. If we treat nature like a resource, we are going to get it wrong. It necessitates an understanding of the environment and seasons. Wild plants are harvested during the green season, which is a very short period in the Yukon. There are precise times and places to hunt and fish. Migratory birds will lay eggs for example. But in an area as big as Valais or Creuse, you have to know where to go. That takes time, sometimes it can take a week of walking. You have to be aware of what is happening around you.
How often are you on the move?
I travel regularly, I visit each location about once a year. I spend some time there, and then I work in areas around it. Each location becomes my home for one or two months, and then I have three day excursions during which I will go sleep in the mountains to find a caribou that is on the move, for example. It is like I have many secondary residences.
Do you stock your food?
I hunt moose with a bow and arrow, sometimes alone, sometimes with a group of Native Americans I work with. I have an emergency gun. Killing a moose means having 300 kg of meat. I stock it in a hiding place in the trees because there are grizzly bears. In winter, I come back to get it because we hunt in October, and not necessarily in the areas where we spend winter. It is easier to travel with snowshoes and skis in order to pull the sled. In the summer, we have to carry everything on our backs. This territory requires management.
How is it sharing the territory with locals?
I am in an American Indian territory, but there is nobody. The indigenous populations- the First Nations- were forced into a sedentary lifestyle. The village connected to this territory is 200 km away. Technically, it is complicated to travel that far. Nevetherless, I try to find moments in my schedule to recreate the experience I had working with indigenous people trying to preserve their way of life.
Have they maintained certain aspects of this rewilding?
This question summarizes my work. We often judge aboriginal people by their assimilation of material items: they have a car, they hunt with a gun, they have become white. This vision distorts reality. They have often forgotten their techniques. I am the one that has certain knowledge. But what I do not know is all of the cosmogony that accompanies these techniques. I may light a fire by rubbing two sticks together, but they will have a story to tell.
What are the three or four months spent outside of the Yukon like?
Bringing a plane to the territory is expensive. I need money. I often take planes and trains to travel to training sessions and conferences in France, Belgium or Switzerland. We made a TV documentary to share our research on origins. I write too. For several years, I have been working with indigenous Canadian populations to create school curriculum. These are pilot projects where they use classroom time to teach their culture, so that school is not uniquely a reflection of Western culture. I have a car in Switzerland that I use when I travel between Switzerland and the South of France.
I visit family. My daughter visits her grandparents in four different locations: Lapland, Grenada, Paris and near Lausanne. We do not go to each location every year… During that period of the year, I feel like I am leading the life of a business man with the train, cell phone, computer- and then I cut myself off for eight months. Nothing modern. It is a little bit schizophrenic, it is not always a pleasant experience for me.
What is it like to switch between such different worlds?
The lifestyle of First Nations does not change, or little in comparison to today’s standards. Each time I return to nature, it is pretty stable: fishing, hunting, gathering, etc… However, each year, I return to the modern world. In twelve years, it has completely changed. The difference is more and more brutal. I spend eight months in nature, and everybody is taking about hashtags. It took me a week to understand what they were talking about. There are these kinds of problems. Readapting is becoming increasingly difficult. Everything is moving faster and faster, making it seem like I have away for more and more time.
Why not stay in the Yukon year-round?
Because I feel like it would be really selfish of me. Since I was child, I have felt like there is a problem in our civilization. We are cut off from the world around us. By living like this, I realized I was learning things that would I could implement rather quickly. Each year I come back with the objective of sharing, transmitting, discussing my experiences. We all know the saying, “ to know where we’re going, we must know where we have been. ” The problem is we do not know where we have been. The last hunter-gathers, our ancestors, disappeared 2,000 years ago before writing existed.
What guides your approach?
I think we are heading for disaster. The survival of the human race is at stake. And we will not survive by correcting the form of things, by using progress to redirect our impact. I want to put the choices we have made as a civilization into perspective, participate in change. We lost our parents who were hunter-gatherers. We killed them. Indigenous populations live more simply, closer to nature. I am a bridge for these people who live in harmony with nature, in order to understand the fundamentals of creating a balance between man and the environment. As long as we do not question our roots, to redefine the impulsions of our civilization, we will miss out on a lot of potential solutions. That is what drives me.