A four-day river journey through the Missouri River Breaks, plus two nights on the American Prairie Reserve, in the company and service of our ancestors

hosted by Chris La Tray


Good Ancestors

This course is currently full - if you would like to be added to the waitlist, please reach out to us at [email protected]



Chris La Tray is a Métis storyteller, descendent of the Pembina Band of the mighty Red River of the North, and an enrolled member of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians. Chris writes the Substack newsletter “An Irritable Métis.” His books include One Sentence Journal and Becoming Little Shell (forthcoming from Milkweed Editions).



“Walking, I can almost hear the redwoods beating. And the oceans are above me here, rolling clouds, heavy and dark. It is winter and there is smoke from the fires. It is a world of elemental attention, of all things working together, listening to what speaks in the blood. Whichever road I follow, I walk in the land of many gods, and they love and eat one another. Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.”

Linda Hogan, Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Living World

We are all ancestors. We are ancestors as beings made of spirit before our births and again after we live our lives and return to the spirit world. We are ancestors as physical beings inhabiting a lifetime. The actions of each influence how we exist in the other. 

“In every moment, whether we like it or not and whether we know it or not, we are advancing values and influencing systems that will continue long past our lifetimes,” write the editors in the introduction to What Kind of Ancestor Do You Want to Be? (2021, University of Chicago Press). “These values and systems shape communities and lives that we will never see. The ways we live create and reinforce the foundation of life for future generations. We are responsible for how we write our values, what storylines we further and set forth—the world we choose to cultivate for the lives that follow ours. So how are we to live?”

So unfolds a simple question: what does it mean to be a “good” ancestor? What are the values we will choose to write? How do we honor those who came before, and those to follow? Should we even care? Do we? These questions and others will form the basis for the summer Freeflow workshop on the Missouri River: Good Ancestors. 


Writers, artists, educators, and curious people of all backgrounds will find this workshop compelling. Writers of all genres and skill levels are welcome. This field course is offered for undergrad or graduate credit through the University of Montana’s Department of Environmental Studies, and is open to non-students and students alike.


Good Ancestors is eligible for scholarships through The Freeflow Foundation.

Because we believe teachers and students need regenerative outdoor experiences more than most, Freeflow always extends a small discount to contracted educators and enrolled students. We also offer a small discount to our alumni. Because we believe in paying our instructors, facilitators, support staff, and guides an equitable wage, we do not offer individual discounts that compromise the integrity of those wages. If you need financial support, please consider applying for our scholarships.

Your program cost includes:

  • daily discussions, workshops, and generative sessions with Chris La Tray + Freeflow faculty
  • pre-course logistical support + reading list
  • professional river guides, paddling gear, waterproof bags, safety gear, and canoes
  • delicious, healthful meals and snacks, plus wine and coffee, from dinner on July 23 through lunch on July 29
  • all permitting, camping, parking, and access fees

The course also serves as an introduction to the Freeflow galaxy of writers, leaders, and thinkers. Our alumni also receive discounts on future Freeflow courses. If you’d like to take Good Ancestors for University of Montana credit, please let us know.

Guide gratuities are not included in the program cost. We strongly suggest giving your river guides some love, and we are happy to discuss norms for tipping – just ask.

Space on this adventure is limited to 12 participants. We will close registration once the roster is full. Please apply early.

All deposits and payments are non-refundable. Payment plans are available. Payments can be made by mailing in an old-fashioned check, or by credit card or bank transfer via the link in your electronic invoice.

Applications will be accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis.




  • Good Ancestors begins and ends in Fort Benton, Montana. (If you're coming from out of state, we suggest flying into Great Falls, which is about 45 minutes from Fort Benton. We can help coordinate a ride share with folks from the cohort.)
  • The cohort will meet in Fort Benton around 4 pm on July 23 for an orientation and our first dinner together.
  • That evening we'll drive out of town to camp riverside.
  • We'll share a quick breakfast and launch our canoes midmorning on July 24.
  • We'll spend four days canoeing the through the Wild and Scenic Missouri River Breaks. 
  • After lunch on Day 4, we'll pull our canoes out of the water and spend our final two nights overlooking the river at the American Prairie Reserve.
  • We will leave vehicles in one spot and return to them early afternoon on July 29. (We suggest flying out on July 30, just to leave space for environmental delays.)
  • For accommodations the night before or after the course, we recommend the Grand Union Hotel in Fort Benton (the oldest hotel in Montana!), or the Virgelle Mercantile 33 miles from town and a stone's throw from our launch point. 


Participants must bring their own camping gear (tent + sleeping bag). We will provide comfy sleeping pads. If you need access to these items, we will help you find them.



Make space for your creative work, movement, and new ideas this summer. Send us your questions and we’ll get in touch right away. If you know you’re ready to apply, head to the button at the top of this page. 

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