We at Wilderness Awareness School are officially retiring the name Anake Outdoor School. As a program that is continuously evolving, this change is being made in order to step into further growth for this beloved experience. Retiring this name is an important part of our continued efforts and commitment to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion.
In 2009, this program which was known as the Wilderness Awareness Residential Program (WARP), was renamed The Immersion at Wilderness Awareness School. The name The Immersion (a Kikamba word) was chosen to honor the legacy of Ingwe, our co-founder, who had direct relationships with Akamba people in East Africa. It was our understanding this word meant “one who is ready to step into service for their community.”
Over the last few years, our staff has come to understand that we don’t actually know the full story of this name, nor do we know its original cultural context. There are no current members of Wilderness Awareness School with an active connection to the Akamba people or the Kikamba language. Despite our best intentions in choosing this name, and the spirit it has evoked for many of our students and graduates, we have come to understand it is appropriation to utilize an element of a culture without being in right relations with the people who live and exist within said culture. For these reasons, it is clear the time has come to release the name “The Immersion” from our organization.
The new name bestowed upon this beloved program is The Immersion at Wilderness Awareness School.
The Immersion is more than a program. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s an experiential immersion into all of the teachings we offer at Wilderness Awareness School. While this name is new, the experience itself will continue to hold the core intentions familiar to its now 500+ graduates. The Immersion will continue to be a place where students come to connect meaningfully to themselves, their classmates, and to the living world in an effort to move deeper into their lives in a more empowered way.
As Rees Maxwell, a graduate of the Class of 2006 said: “When we experience life as immersion, we aren’t only ‘in it’ — we are given the opportunity to experience being ‘of it’. Those special moments of being ‘it’ are moments of being beyond ourselves, where we are more than intimately connected to all things, we are all things. We are immersed.”
Bestowing a new name upon this program is just one of the many steps we’re taking to disentangle ourselves from the ongoing colonization that takes place when an organization uses language from another culture in their branding and ascribes their own meaning to it. This change is essential for Wilderness Awareness School as we strive to be a more liberated and equitable organization. There is still much work to be done, and our path of action continues in order to support the equity initiatives that we are committed to expanding.