The Founding Story of Wild Intelligence

Evan McGown – Founder

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Born and raised in Athens, Evan was inspired as a teenager by his mentoring with Carl Lindberg, local musician and permaculture enthusiast, to begin exploring nature and the path of consciousness. Carl introduced him to the books and teachings of Tom Brown, Jr., and Evan attended the Tracker School when he was 18 years old, where he learned about Tom’s student, Jon Young.Listening to some tapes (yes, ahem, tapes) of Jon Young’s, Evan’s jaw dropped hearing the idea that we could redesign modern culture to consciously reflect and include ancient, natural patterns of education and community from indigenous cultures, which we all come from, if we go back far enough. Simultaneously, Evan was volunteering with one of Carl’s projects at the Boys & Girls club of Athens. One day, Evan attempted to take a group of kids into the woods by the Oconee River, and watched in frustrated and helpless bewilderment as the kids ran out of the woods in utter fear.

166641_197621960248297_1574240_nSeized with a calling to understand how he could reconnect himself and children to the natural world again, Evan set off as a 20 year-old to study in a year-long program with Jon Young at Wilderness Awareness School outside of Seattle, Washington. He studied with Jon and other instructors for 2 years, and then became staff of both youth and adults, eventually becoming Adult Programs Director and a Summer Camp Director. 1186193_10102486854031430_2138727083_nWhile there, Evan set to finishing his Bachelor’s degree, and through that process fell into becoming the lead writer for the manual of Jon’s and Tom’s style of “coyote mentoring.” Coyote’s Guide to Connecting With Nature, with a foreword by renowned journalist Richard Louv, has now sold thousands of copies worldwide, including a German translation, and is used as a training manual for nature connection at camps, programs and universities. Evan began to travel extensively with Jon and others to teach the curriculum, and in the process Evan developed closer mentoring relationships with many incredible teachers and indigenous elders, as well as honing his skills in group facilitation.

240026_214223021929455_68330_oIn 2009, at the age of 27, Evan decided to return to his birthplace of Athens, GA and start an organization based on the mentoring and community principles he had learned. He saw this as a way to give back – to turn his privilege, that allowed him to travel and learn from so many incredible people, into a service project for the betterment of his birthplace – as well as the completing of a full-circle journey that began when he met Carl Lindberg at age 12. With the long-distance support of regular calls with mentor Mark Morey and a goal to replace himself fully in 5 years, Evan began to set his coyote traps to attract the people that would help build a nature-based mentoring organization. Wild Intelligence was born. Evan’s early efforts were hugely supported by Mike Weems, Steven Snow-Bear Taylor, Clint Corley, Tommy Tye, Sharon Duncan (Waseca School founder) and Carl Lindberg, who in a complete role reversal, became one of Evan’s first students and employees (it was always Carl’s dream that Evan would bring these teachings back to Athens). Many luminaries supported the founding of Wild Intelligence by traveling from afar to visit and teach, including Jon Young, Mark Morey, Paul Raphael, JoAnne Cook, Dan Gardoqui, and Victor Wooten.

1502695_10152025841877850_1369797993_oWithin 3 years of programming, Wild Intelligence had waiting lists for all of its camps, and a steady and growing community of adults, mentors and parents to carry the vision forwards. Holding many community-wide summits and backroom conversations, Evan began to transition out of leadership, passing the leadership torches onto Sarah Hubbard and Sara Callaway, and eventually the Board of Directors, as Wild Intelligence successfully became a non-profit community-based organization. Evan became the first President of the Board in 2013, and then resigned in 2014, passing the torch onto Mike Weems.

His 5-year catalyst project completed, and with Wild Intelligence properly in the hands of the community and a host of brilliant leaders with their own visions, Evan moved on. Out in the world again, and relocating away from his birthplace of Athens for the final time, Evan continues to follow his even deeper callings to cultivate and express his authentic gifts for the betterment of the world.

177045_4859723540716_1122850899_oTragically, in May 2015, just as Evan prepared to move away from Athens for the final time, his original mentor, Carl Lindberg, passed away at 40 years of age. As Evan wrote as he left, “Wild Intelligence stands as a testament to the power of mentoring. The mentoring, to be sure, of Tom Brown, Jon Young, Stalking Wolf, and many many others. But most notably, in my mind, Wild Intelligence is a testament to the mentoring of Carl Lindberg with a wide-eyed 12 year old. And what is the glue of mentoring? What makes it go? Love. Acting for the betterment of another without expectation of return. Carl Lindberg taught me that. Without Carl, there would be no Wild Intelligence. 218763_214222665262824_4873294_oI am proud that Wild Intelligence continues on, inspiring and mentoring countless people into the future, and even prouder to know that the people running it are themselves run by the same thing Carl was when he inspired me as a young man: love and hope, and a radical, playful readiness to live on the edge. I pray that it may always be so. May mentoring increase on this planet, whether Wild Intelligence lasts for a century or a decade. I ran these programs so that one day we won’t have to run these programs; one day, may mentoring — the enactment of love — be at the center of human life, everywhere.”