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History: Guiding Youth and Adults since 1968

A history of Rite of Passage Journeys, the Institute of Cultural Affairs.

Rite of Passage Journeys has operated in the Pacific Northwest since the mid-1980s.  Our programs first started in Chicago in 1968 at the Ecumenical Institute, which later became the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA). The ICA has an incredible and radical history of social activism; this tradition was the catalyst for the Journeys program.


The earliest inspiration for Journeys was a heartfelt commitment to maintaining healthy communities and supporting individual growth and responsibility within this collective context.  Early members knew that strong communities create vital, vibrant, healthy societies. They understood that community is fundamentally sustained by traditions, rites of passage, stories and symbols. In their work around the globe, they found that communities that are strong in these realms are cohesive and able to remain strong and adaptable to the needs of their members. Conversely, communities without strong traditions are more divided and less adaptable to change.

Members of the ICA considered the question, “How can we restore this cohesion in our American culture, and our own communities?” They conceived of an answer that would eventually affect many lives and the organization itself in remarkable ways – they started with a rite of passage program for their 12-year-old children.

In the summer of 1968, the program initially known as the "Sixth Grade Trip" took a group of 4 children on a month-long trip in a school bus from Chicago along a loop around the eastern US. They camped out, saw historical sites, and took part in a 24-hour solo vigil. This journey was so meaningful to the children and their families that a tradition began.

Each year, the journey was invented afresh. Groups traveled to Canada, hiked the Appalachian Trail, camped in the Colorado Rockies, and visited the Crow Reservation in Montana. One trip went across Canada to the northernmost tip of Newfoundland!  Another went to Mexico, and the youth participated in a dramatic ritual of transition on the top of the Pyramid of the Moon.  Over the years interest and participation grew, and participants came from a broadening background until finally, programs were opened to the general public.

The 1985 Trip traveled to the Cascade Mountains in Washington State. This led to a decision to identify sites for a standardized trip which could be sustained by using a common route, maps, gear, and camp sites. ICA  Journeys moved permanently to the Pacific Northwest and soon added programs for older youth and adults. Stan Crow became the Director in 1981, a position he held for the next 26 years. Stan’s wisdom and leadership coalesced Journeys into the organization it is today.

In 1999, a dozen staff members formed the Journeys’ Stakeholders group to act as a guiding and decision-making group. This marked the beginning of a time of transition for Journeys, into its own self-governing organization with a strong committed leadership core. In 2006, Journeys established a Board of Directors and chose a new Executive Director, Darcy Ottey, to allow Stan Crow to step into the role of elder and Director Emeritus. Also, Journeys and the ICA have amicably parted ways, and Journeys has emerged as its own non-profit corporation. These changes bring exciting opportunities for Journeys to impact the lives of many more youth and adults.

The program basecamp of Journeys is located at Songaia CoHousing, an intentional community in Bothell, Washington (near Seattle) that combines private housing with shared community resources.  This beautiful land is located on 11 acres of wooded hillside, gardens, orchard, and meadows.

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