About Us

Our Story

David and Saskia Vanderhoop founded Sassafras Earth Education in 2005 with a mission to deeply connect people to nature, self, and others. David is an Aquinnah Wampanoag elder, and programs are offered on his ancestral lands. 

Sassafras has built long-term mentoring relationships with many youth and families on the Island and beyond. Sassafras is a leader among the 300-plus affiliated nature connection organizations worldwide, David and Saskia are board members of this Nature Connection Network.

What is Sassafras?

We offer unique and empowering nature experiences that go beyond ‘learning’. Our programs are designed to remember who we are as human beings. Nature is our primary teacher and an integral part of what we do and how. Our mentors guide with care, competence, and spirit, resulting in the development of vital life skills in young people. Today, providing a place to fully ‘unplug’, reset to nature, and get in touch with ourselves is even more important, amidst increasing social and environmental challenges. Sassafras is committed to nature-connected leadership development, tending the land through Native permaculture practices, and building honest communities based on truth and respect.


Nature Connection Mentoring Lineage

We give credit to the Indigenous people and the ancestors of this land, for our teachings. The origins of our approach were developed over thousands of years of mentoring and tending the land in thriving Indigenous cultures. The approach we use consists of cultural appropriation when shared beyond BIPOC and Sassafras is committed to giving these teaching back to Native Youth and Youth of Color.


Nature Connection Mentoring is a holistic nature immersion approach that has many elements of living in a village setting. In our beautiful camp, woods, and fields, we practice naturalist,  earth-based and ancestral skills, while fostering respect for the environment, interpersonal and equitable relations, as well as individual growth.

*Repair Fund

Sassafras created a Repair Fund in 2018 that covers tuition for Indigenous / Wampanoag participants, and we work towards including all BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) participants. This Repair Fund is intended to make some form of reparations for the injustices of the past and present, and we do not make assumptions about access to wealth. BIPOC families can choose to pay and/or donate.


Financial Aid Fund

Sassafras has not turned anyone away for lack of funds since we started in 2005 and for application forms see registration.

Sassafras does not represent the federally recognized Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head Aquinnah or its tribal government.