The Times They are a Changin’...

Summer camp is perhaps the best business in the entire world. We create an amazing environment where we build a strong community based on interpersonal relationships. We challenge ourselves to discover something new each day, be it a new skill, a new friend or a new experience. Our program is built around valuing each and every member of our community. We appreciate the unique aspects each camper and staff member brings to the table. We love including campers and staff from different cultures and different places. Each person is valued and each person makes a contribution to our community. Just this past week, Heidi has been traveling in Ireland and Spain, visiting with former and returning staff members and meeting potential new staffers.

Being inclusive of different cultures, races and religions has always been a hallmark of Keystone. We have long felt this makes our program richer in the relationships our girls develop. We learn so much from one another. We want to honor each person’s traditions and heritage. One of the very favorite days at camp is our International Day. I know there are many of you who would love another round of the lamb meatballs from Turkey we enjoyed in 2018 or the chicken taquitos so lovingly prepared by our support staff from Mexico this past summer. I still look back on learning the New Zealand Haka dance many summers ago. There is so much value in sharing who we are, where we come from and the many things we have in common. In fact, we always find there is far more that we share than that which divides us.

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So, let’s get to the title of this blog, and where it is leading. Bob Dylan, a big voice in the 1960’s, gave me a great set up with this song title that I have appropriated, and appropriation is the topic at hand. We have spent a considerable amount of time over the past two years considering our four teams. Team games began under my father’s leadership back in the 1960’s. Daddy often spoke about his desire to keep the competition friendly and not divisive. Hence, he chose to move camp from two teams, the Blue and the Tan, to four teams, the Apaches, the Cherokees, the Seminoles, and the Shawnees.

If you read about the history of the development of summer camps in the United States, connecting children with the great outdoors was one of the primary purposes. Summer camps began developing in the post-Civil War years as industrialization developed and the masses began moving to cities. Parents were seeking ways to continue connecting their children to the land as the population became more concentrated in urban areas. I do not think anyone can deny that the masters of living off the land were the Native Americans. Their respect and care for their natural environment was unparalleled.

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If you read about the history of the development of summer camps in the United States, connecting children with the great outdoors was one of the primary purposes. Summer camps began developing in the post-Civil War years as industrialization developed and the masses began moving to cities. Parents were seeking ways to continue connecting their children to the land as the population became more concentrated in urban areas. I do not think anyone can deny that the masters of living off the land were the Native Americans. Their respect and care for their natural environment was unparalleled.

When Daddy made this decision, Indian lore figured very prominently in summer camp programs. Many books from that era and earlier highlighted the many ways to incorporate the perceived Native American traditions into woodcraft, hiking, camping and campfire programs. Yes, this was open to all kinds of individual interpretation and cultural appropriation in serving the purposes of the various camp programs. For my father, Keystone was located close to the Cherokee tribe. The Shawnees had been close by in Kentucky, and he had grown up in Florida, home to Seminoles. Daddy was a tremendous student of American History, and a former history teacher. Additionally, the neighborhood close to my parents’ first house consists of street names reflecting the many different Native American Tribes. I am guessing that his decision to use tribe names for the new teams at Keystone seemed very logical at the time.

As noted, though, times are changing. We are becoming so much more aware of how our interpretation of others’ cultures impacts those who belong to the culture. So often, the use of a tribal name devolves into a tomahawk chop, a headdress, or face paint with no consideration of the heritage and traditions that define the Native American Tribe. When we examine what we want to instill in our girls, the team names no longer work for us.

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We have covered the gamut in our discussions. Should we name our teams after native animals? Trees? Plants? None of these really worked for us. What we found resonated were the elements of Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water. We then considered our current team colors, and we got excited. It made great sense to us that the green of the Apaches became the Earth. The purple of the Cherokees made us think of the Wind and the clouds as the sun sets. The red of the Seminoles becomes Fire, and the blue of the Shawnees makes perfect sense as Water.

There is power in belonging to a group, and we have built more strength into our teams by carrying the membership through successive generations. If your mother was a Shawnee, you would be as well. We do not want to lose this sense of belonging to these smaller groups within Keystone. Now, the former Shawnee will be a member of Water. We are not asking you to get rid of your current shirts. In fact, bring them with you, and help us figure out a way to celebrate the new beginning. If you want to acquire a new shirt this summer, we will certainly have them available. The colors stay the same!

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As I mentioned, this decision took a lot of deliberation. We know the enthusiasm you have for your team membership, and I am speaking to both our current campers as well as our alumnae! We just feel strongly that this is the time to make this transition to be true to our values and to our Keystone community.

I haven’t given up yet on finding a song from the group Earth, Wind, and Fire that fits this conversation. I am just disappointed they did not have Water in the band’s name!

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