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'Teeth of the Constitution:' Light Foot Militia rises in Idaho's backcountry

Matt Mills McKnight / Redux

Cody Hoyt, a corporal in the Idaho regiment of the Light Foot militia, looks west over the Clark Fork River and Lake Pend Oreille near the Idaho and Montana border during an overnight cold weather training exercise.

Amid the beautiful trees, mountains and waterways of the Idaho panhandle, a burgeoning group of like-minded individuals banded together to form what they call the Idaho regiment of the Light Foot Militia.

Based on the principal that it’s their right to form a constitutional militia to protect themselves and their families against any future aggressors, the Light Foot use surrounding public lands to train in military tactics and survivalist methods, preparing for the worst. Firm believers in the Second Amendment, they consider themselves the "teeth of the constitution."

"But it’s more than just a gun thing," said Matt Mills McKnight, a photojournalist who has been documenting the militia for two years, photographing more than a dozen training sessions, public meetings and private occasions. "Just because they own guns, and some guns that are some really intense weapons, doesn’t mean that they are any different from you or me."

McKnight pursued the story of the Light Foot after moving to northern Idaho from San Francisco in 2010. He wanted to look beyond the guns, a culture deeply rooted in all militias, and cut to the core of this organization, which started in 2009. What he found were men and women with families dealing with the same issues that all of America deals with.

"Some militias want you to be afraid of them, but they [Idaho Light Foot Militia] don't," he said. "They are a group of guys that take themselves very seriously, and they believe in this current economic climate, they need to prepare for the worst."

"Where most people are willing to take the gamble that a worst case scenario isn't going to happen, the members of the Light Foot militia have decided differently," he said.

Matt Mills-McKnight is a freelance photojournalist and photo editor based in the Pacific Northwest. He can be found on TwitterInstagram, or mattmillsphoto.com.