Posts Tagged ‘legends’

Nothing More American Than Scouting?

July 4, 2013
Three early 20th century leaders of the Scouti...

Three early 20th century leaders of the Scouting movement (l-to-r): Ernest Thompson Seton, Robert Baden-Powell, and Dan Beard. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Elsewhere on social media, an innocent Independence Day missive provoked a flurry of comments:

“There’s nothing more all-American than Scouting! So it’s a great day to thank you for supporting BSA… Happy 4th of July!”

To which the most relevant responder pointed out that Scouting was in fact founded by an Englishman, and that Independence Day celebrates our (US) separation from the Brits.  Others (sarcastically or not) accused the Boy Scouts of America organization of either continued prejudice or abandonment of first principles, etc and so on.  You can guess where I stand on principles, but I’ve often wondered about America’s love-hate relationship with our Colonial overlords back in the United Kingdom.  America was first settled by people of British origin (setting aside the Native Americans who had migrated to the continent a millennium or more before).  To rebel against Britain was in many ways to rebel against our own family.  Yet there it was, in the Declaration of Independence:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…

I will let historians debate our shared Special Relationship.  Here I am interested in Scouting, as a movement not a bureaucracy.

Robert Baden-Powell, the Englishman did, of course, found the game of Scouting based on his military experience in Africa and India.  He also had a lot of help.

We all know the story of the Unknown Scout who helped Chicago publisher William D. Boyce through the London fog, and to a lesser extent James West who took the helm of the new Boy Scouts of America a century ago.  But sometimes we forget Boyce & West didn’t just import a British idea—they brought a Scouting idea home that had many fathers.

Ernest Thompson Seton was the first Chief Scout in the BSA, and is fairly well known as a founder of Scouting in America.  He is in the new Handbook, page 60 in fact.  An Englishman of Scottish descent, he emigrated to Canada with his family when he was a small boy.  Later settling in the New York area, Seton founded Woodcraft Indians in 1902 to give local hoodlums something to do.  It is well known that B-P was influenced by The Birch Bark Roll of the Woodcraft Indians, which Seton published in 1906, and the Woodcraft Indians merged into the BSA when that organization was founded in 1910.

“Uncle Dan” Beard is also on page 60, fairly well known as an American founder of Scouting, at least as far as Scouting Heritage is followed these days.  Daniel Carter Beard was an engineer and surveyor, and a friend of Ernest Thompson Seton.  In 1882, he published the American Boy’s Handy Book, filled with illustrations and practical stuff for American Boys to do.  In 1905, he founded the Sons of Daniel Boon, (aka Boy Pioneers) in celebration of American Frontiersmen such as their illustrious namesake, Kit Carson, Davey Crockett, Johnny Appleseed, James Audubon, and George Catlin.  Beard became National Commissioner in the new BSA, and helped found Campfire Girls as an outdoor-oriented sister organization to the BSA.

Less well known in the US are others who contributed to B-P’s Scouting Movement.  Minnesotan Frederick Russell Burnham, for example, grew up among the Sioux Indians and was an Old West scout in the Apache Wars.  He went on to serve in the British Army in Africa, where he taught woodcraft to Baden-Powell.  You can blame Burnham for B-P adapting the American cowboy’s bandana as the Scout Neckerchief.

Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman, a Dakota Sioux, was also from Minnesota and graduated from Dartmouth College and Boston University.  He wrote about growing up in an Indian tribe on the changing frontier, including Indian Scout Craft and Lore.  He worked with Seton to implement programs through the YMCA and other groups, then in establishing the BSA.  It was one thing for East Coast anglo-americans to tout Indian skills, but Eastman lived them and was proud of his Native American heritage.

These are just a few of the Americans who influenced Baden-Powell in establishing the Scouting movement, and who later implemented B-P’s ideas in the USA.  There may, in fact, be nothing more American than Scouting.  In many ways, in reaching out in partnership between the old family in England and the the new family here in the United States to bring to life the ideals in the Declaration of Independence, Scouting as a movement is more American than America herself.



Scoutmaster Minute—An Indian Boy’s Training

April 15, 2012

SM Minute—An Indian Boy’s Training

Excerpts from Charles Alexander Eastman‘s 1902 book, Indian Boyhood.

Very early, the Indian boy assumed the task of preserving and transmitting the legends of his ancestors and his race. Almost every evening a myth, or a true story of some deed done in the poast, was narrated by one of the parents or grandparents, while the boy listened with parted lips and glistening eyes. On the following evening, he was usually required to repeat it… This sort of teaching at once enlightens the boy’s mind and stimulates his ambition…

It seems to be a popular idea that all the characteristic skill of the Indian is instinctive and hereditary. This is a mistake. All the stoicism and patience of the Indian are acquired traits, and continued practice alone makes him master of the art of wood-craft…

My uncle, who educated me up to the age of 15 years was a strict disciplinarian and a good teacher. When I left the teepee in the morning, he would say: “Hakadah, look closely to everything you see”; at evening, on my return, he used often to catechize me for an hour or so.

“On which side of the trees is the lighter-colored bark? On which side do they have most regular branches?”…

He did not expect a correct reply at once to all the voluminous questions that he put to me on these occasions, but he meant to make me observant and a good student of nature…

A bit about Mr. Eastman:

Charles Alexander Eastman (born Hakadah and later named Ohíye S’a; February 19, 1858 – January 8, 1939) was a Native American physician, writer, national lecturer, and reformer. He was of Santee Sioux and Anglo-American ancestry. Active in politics and issues on American Indian rights, he worked to improve the lives of youths, and founded 32 Native American chapters of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). He also helped found the Boy Scouts of America. He is considered the first Native American author to write American history from the native point of view.


Scoutmaster Minute—The Founders

January 29, 2012
Baden-Powell, Robert

SM Minute—The Founders

Next Sunday is Scout Sunday, when we celebrate the founding of the BSA by William D. Boyce on 8 February 1910.  Boyce, as you know, brought Scouting to the US from England, where the movement was started by Robert Baden-Powell.

Robert S.S. Baden-Powell

As a youth, Robert Baden-Powell greatly enjoyed the outdoors, learning about nature and how to live in the wilderness.  After returning as a military hero from service in Africa, Baden-Powell discovered that English boys were reading the manual on stalking and survival in the wilderness he had written for his military regiment.  Gathering ideas from Ernest Thompson Seton, Daniel Carter Beard, and others, he rewrote the manual as a non-military nature skill book and called it Scouting for Boys.  To test his ideas, Baden-Powell brought together 22 boys to camp at Brownsea Island, off the coast of England.  This historic campout was a success and resulted in the advent of Scouting.  Thus, the imagination and inspiration of Baden-Powell, later proclaimed Chief Scout of the World, brought Scouting to youth the world over.


(adapted from Troop Program Resources)


SM Minute—Orion’s Belt

March 2, 2011
Orion, Canis Minor and Canis major

Image via Wikipedia

Scoutmaster Minute—Orion’s Belt

Winter, despite the cold, is an excellent time to observe the night sky.  If you want dry air and bright stars, you can go to the mountains, or you can go to the desert, or you can go outside in the wintertime.

The brightest stars in the Northern winter sky are in the Winter Triangle—Sirius (the Dog Star) in Canis Major, Procyon in Canis Minor, and Betelgeuse in Orion.  The constellation Orion and Orion’s Belt are easy to pick out in the Southern Sky this time of year.

The old Greek story of Orion is interesting.  Orion was a great hunter.  He was like many of us Scouts.  He would rather camp out and hike and fish than be stuck in town and he kept all sorts of handy gadgets hanging from his belt.  Well, there was this girl, Artemis, who drove the moon in a chariot across the sky each night.  One night she stopped the moon and went on a date with Orion and they had a great time.

Now, some of you older guys maybe have gone on some dates, and you know you better not get on the bad side of her dad.  Artemis’ dad was the great god Zeus, and he wasn’t happy about this.  Zeus sent a giant Scorpion to teach Orion a lesson.  That night, the Scorpion attacked Orion just as Artemis rose with the moon in the night sky.  When she saw the two fighting, she got mad and swung the both of them into opposite corners of the sky where they stay until this day.

This, of course, is just a story, and only one of many stories about the stars.  But remember when you look up at the Winter Triangle, the story of Orion the Hunter.


(Adapted from the story as told by Minnesota astronomer Mike Lynch.  Check out Astronomy merit badge, tho I took it during the summer not the winter!)


Scoutmaster Minute—Leadership Secrets of Crazy Horse

August 30, 2009

Let me talk for a minute about a young man who lived not too far from here. He wasn’t a big man, or particularly handsome, or have a lot of money. He wasn’t from a family of leaders. But he became a great leader.

How? Lakota author Joseph Marshall gives us some ideas.

  1. Know Yourself. Know your own strengths and challenges.  Know how far you can run.

  2. Know Your Friends. Know who you can count on. At the same time, never ask somebody to do more than they can do. Rely on the strengths of your friends, so they can rely also on you.

  3. Know the Enemy. Know your opponents. Understand the true nature of your challenges so that you can remain on the course to True North.

  4. Lead the Way. Leadership isn’t about telling people what to do. It’s more about understanding what needs to be done, and then doing it.

By now you probably know I’m talking about Crazy Horse. He did not command a great army. He saw the great needs of his people, like your patrol, and asked them simply: “Follow Me”.


Scoutmaster Minute—Words Behind the Words

August 2, 2009

Crazy Horse Monument

Lakota medicine man Black Elk told John G. Neihardt, as related in the book Black Elk Speaks:

Crazy Horse’s father was my father’s cousin, and there were no chiefs in our family before Crazy Horse; but there were holy men; and he became a chief because of the power he got in a vision when he was a boy. When I was a man, my father told me something about that vision. Of course he did not know all of it; but he said that Crazy Horse dreamed and went into the world where there is nothing but the spirits of all things. That is the real world that is behind this one, and everything we see here is something like a shadow from that world. He was on his horse in that world, and the horse and himself on it and the trees and the grass and the stones and everything were made of spirit, and nothing was hard, and everything seemed to float. His horse was standing still there, and yet it danced around like a horse made only of shadow. That is how he got his name, which does not mean that his horse was crazy or wild, but that in his vision it danced around in that weird way.*

When we are out in our world we see names on things and the words are familiar so we may think we know what they mean. You may have been at Scout Camp or traveling in the Black Hills and seen the name Crazy Horse. An image may have come to your mind, based on what you think you know. As a Scout, we should strive to do better. As a Scout, Do Your Best to understand not just the words but the true meanings behind the words.

*Black Elk Speaks, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press Twenty-First-Century Edition, 2000, p.65.

Resources on Native American Culture in Southwest Minnesota

February 18, 2009

Southwest Minnesota has a rich heritage reaching back centuries before statehood.  Respect for our natural environment and those who lived here before us is an important part of Scouting.  With a little thought, we can help our Scouts discover the fascinating heritage of Native American culture in our part of the world.

Coteau des Prairies, or Buffalo Ridge

There is archeological evidence of human habitation along the Coteau des Prairies reaching back thousands of years.  On Minnesota’s leading edge of the Coteau, also known as Buffalo Ridge, Jeffers Petroglyphs State Historic Site is located three miles east of US71 in Cottonwood County.  This site preserves ancient art carved in red rock outcroppings, some of which may date 5,000 years into the past, on easily accessible walking paths.  The Minnesota State Historical Society has a small museum with interpretive programs during the summer.  (The multi-media program has loud noises that might scare younger Cubs.)  Blue Mounds State Park north of Luverne also shows evidence of pre-historic use.  Blue Mound has natural prairie trails and a modern campground-the trails can be muddy when wet-along with a nearby herd of roaming bison.

The Cheyenne and the Ioway tribes lived in the area around the quarries at Pipestone and along the Des Moines River when the first first Europeans and Anglo-Americans traveled across the Ridge.  Eventually, eastern settlement pushed tribes further west.  The Ashinabe (Ojibwa or Chippewa) gained control of northern Minnesota, pushing the Sioux Nation south and west into this area.  Two hundred years ago, fur traders established posts at the Great Oasis in Murray County and later at what is now Camden State Park along the Redwood River in Lyon County.  For added interest in this era, Lake Benton hosts an annual Mountain Man Rendezvous at Hole in the Mountain County Park each August.

Depot Pipestone

The quarries at Pipestone National Monument are mined to this day for the namestake stone.  According to the Monument, “carvers prized this durable yet relatively soft stone, which ranged from mottled pink to brick red.”  The monument has an nature trail to the waterfall which is an easy hike in most any weather except when icy.  The museum has somewhat dated displays;  however, with advance notice rangers or volunteers will provide first-hand accounts and hands-on demonstrations for youth visitors.  The Keepers of the Sacred Tradition of Pipemakers organization also has a museum in an old train depot between the Monument and downtown, offering a variety of programs throughout the year.

It can be misleading to refer to a singular “Sioux Nation.”  They are a group of related tribes who speak related languages.  One could say this is similar to the Scandinavians, composed of several nations which have changed and grown unique identities over time.  The Lakota moved farthest west and were among the first tribes to adopt the horse culture following the herds of bison on the Great Plains.  Nakota-Yanktons and Yankoni-occupied the plains on the western edge of the Buffalo Ridge up into the Red River Valley.   The Dakota, or Santee were the last of the Sioux to leave northern Minnesota, and lived along the Minnesota River Valley when the United States negotiated treaties to open lands for settlement.

Cabin at Shetek State Park

In the 1850s, the Dakota were left with small reservations on either side of the Minnesota River Valley.  Lower Sioux Agency was established south of what is now Redwood Falls, and Upper Sioux Agency was established near Granite Falls.  As the United States entered the Civil War, a combination of crop failure, broken promises and misunderstandings lead to the Dakota Conflict of 1862 (also known as the US-Dakota War).  Lakota warriors led by Chief Little Crow attacked the Agencies and settlers in the area, including at Lake Shetek in Murray County.  After several weeks of fighting, the conflict ended with mass arrests and deportation of most Dakota to reservations in South Dakota and Nebraska.  The Lower Sioux Community was later established with lands purchased by tribal members who returned to the area.  The Minnesota Historical Society has a modern museum at the Lower Sioux Agency site with hands-on displays appropriate for young Scouts.  There are interpretive tours of the site during the summer, including a restored stone warehouse.

Local Resources

These are just a few of the many local resources for Cub Scout leaders to help our Scouts understand the people who lived here before us.  Check your local library for books that can show Native American history visually.  For example, Eyewitness North American Indian from DK Publishing, is often available at the Scout Shop.  Also, Charles Eastman, a Dakota Indian from Lower Sioux Agency, wrote first hand accounts of his life for Boys Life 100 years ago.  His books, such as Indian Scout Craft and Lore, would be of interest to older Scouts.

In addition to books, parks and museums, be sure to ask people in your own community.  For example, a long-time Lakota resident of Marshall has offered to talk to Scout groups about the tribes, their history and customs.  Who knows, one of your own Scout parents may be your best resource, so be sure to ask.


Minnesota DNR
Blue Mounds State Park:
Camden State Park:
Shetek State Park:

Minnesota Historical Society
Jeffers Petroglyphs:
Lower Sioux Agency:
Pipestone National Monument:
Junior Ranger Program:

John Shepard, Wood Badge Ticket, August 2008

Turtle Island

February 16, 2009
Turtle Island

Turtle Island

There was another world before this one.  But the people of that world did not behave themselves.  Displeased, Creator set out to make a new world.  He sang several songs to bring rain, which poured stronger with each song.

As he sang the fourth song, the earth split apart and water gushed up through the many cracks, causing a flood. By the time the rain stopped, all of the people and nearly all of the animals had drowned. Only Crow survived.

Crow pleaded with Creator to make him a new place to rest. So Creator decided the time had come to make his new world.  From his huge pipe bag, which contained all types of animals and birds, Creator selected four animals known for their ability to remain under water for a long time.  He sent each in turn to retrieve a lump of mud from beneath the flood waters.

First Loon dove deep into the dark waters, but he was unable to reach the bottom.  Otter, even with his strong webbed feet, also failed.  Next, Beaver used his large flat tail to propel itself deep under the water, but he too brought nothing back. 

Finally, Creator took Turtle from his pipe bag and urged him to bring back some mud.  Turtle stayed under the water for so long that everyone was sure it had drowned.  Then, with a splash, Turtle broke the water’s surface!  Mud filled his feet and claws and the cracks between his upper and lower shells.

Singing, Creator shaped the mud in his hands and spread it on the water, where it was just big enough for himself and Crow. He then shook two long eagle wing feathers over the mud until earth spread wide and varied, overcoming the waters.  Feeling sadness for the dry land, Creator cried tears that became oceans, streams, and lakes.  He named the new land Turtle Island in honor of the turtle who provided the mud from which it was formed.

Creator then took many animals and birds from his great pipe bag and spread them across the earth.  From red, white, black, and yellow earth, he made men and women. Creator gave the people his sacred pipe and told them to live by it.  He warned them about the fate of the people who came before them.  He promised all would be well if all living things learned to live in harmony.  But the world would be destroyed again if they made it bad and ugly.

Adapted from:

Wolf Elective 10a. American Indian Lore: Read a book or tell a story about American Indians, past or present.