Julie Seton gave a presentation on Ernest Thompson Seton’s activities in Canada at the Global Bushcraft Symposium. The presentation included stories about the weather, land, animals, and people in Manitoba as well as the development of his Woodcraft program. His first major publication, “Saffron Walden”, is a story published in the Essex Gazette appealing to Englishmen interested in emigrating to Manitoba, Canada. Watch it on YouTube.
We are seeking funds to support our Oral History Project and for building the base for our proposed scholarship program.
Over the past year, we have accomplished the following:
1. Received the IRS 501c3 designation, retroactive to July 2017.
2. Collected two new oral histories from two people influenced by Seton’s work. These histories need to be transcribed. Your donation will help!
3. Institute information disseminated internationally in Canada, Czech Republic, and Poland.
4. Collaboration with the Woodcraft Rangers, an offshoot of Seton’s original Woodcraft that will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2022.
5. Collaboration with the Boy Scouts of America’s National Scouting Museum that houses the Seton Collection of books, art, and artifacts.
We are currently working on these tasks:
5. Upgrading the etsetoninstitute.org website.
6. Seeking to expand our board of directors. (If interested, please contact us at [email protected])
7. Brainstorming ideas for fundraising and increasing the Institute’s visibility across the US.
By Mark Beese
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Wood Badge at Gilwell, about 80 Scouts and Scouters met with the granddaughters of founder Robert Baden-Powell and BSA founder Ernest Thompson Seton. Gill Clay told stories of BP, the early days of Scouting and demonstrated how Scouting’s left-hand shake originated. Julie Seton talked about her research over the past five years on Ernest Thompson Seton’s involvement with youth organizations, and how he connected with Dan Beard and others to form the Boy Scouts of America, as well as Woodcraft Indians.
Both Gill and Julie were generous with their time, frankness and insights into how Scouting started and has changed over time. Gill has been active in Scouting and Guiding all of her life.
Here are some take-ways:
Rudyard Kipling knew both Seton and BP. After reading Seton’s book, Wild Animals I Have Known, he asked Seton what’s next. Seton said he might write a dictionary of animals Kipling said, “who will read a dictionary? Write a story!” Kipling then wrote “Jungle Book”, inspired by Seton’s writings. BP then took ideas from Jungle Book as elements of Scouting.
A Scouter from Africa (Ghana, I think), asked Gill about the origins of the left-hand handshake in Scouting. Gill stood up and demonstrated with the Scouter, who had heard that the origins came from tribal traditions in Africa. Warriors would hold their spears in their right hand, and their shields in their left. Shaking hands with the right hand meant that they would be without weapons, but still have a shield in their left hand. Putting down both the spear and shield to shake with their left hand demonstrated the highest level of trust with the other person. “The bravest warriors shook hands with their left hand”.
The turn of the century in the UK, USA and much of the world was in the mix of the industrial revolution. Young men and boys, who a generation before would have been in the military or working, found themselves with fewer job opportunities because “machines were doing more work.” This idleness inspired both BP and Seton to engage boys in outdoor pursuits instead. In fact, there were more than 30 youth organizations with a similar mission around 1900 – 1910. Seton, along with Dan Beard, and others convened a meeting with these organizations to discuss collaborating with a unified organization that would provide outdoor education. This was an alternative education movement throughout the world. In the USA, it turned into the BSA. Jim West was the money guy – he didn’t want anything to do with kids. Beard and Seton were the programming and hands-on leaders. Seton, whose citizenship was both Canadian and British, was caught up in early politics and left the organization to re-invest in the Woodcraft Indians group, continue to write (he wrote more than 40 books) and found the Seton Institute. He soon after received a letter from HQ that his BSA membership was canceled. Heartbreaking.
The Chairperson of the Girl Scouts of the USA’s Colorado Council also attended last night, along with her husband. Girl Scouting and Girl Guiding grew quickly after BP started Scouting in England in 1907. Gill told the story about how BP traveled around the world in 1912. On the boat here, he met Juliet Gordon Low, who went on to start Girl Scouting in the USA. He also met another woman, 30 years his junior, whom he couldn’t stop thinking about. He wrote letters to Olave during his two-year trip, returning to England not to see her first, but to fulfill a promise to his nephew to take him fishing. Not long after, he wed Olave in a quiet ceremony. Olave became a leader in the global Girl Guiding/Girl Scout movement as well.
Gill told this story. At the first Rally at the Crystal Palace in 1909, a group of girls in Scout uniforms showed up. BP said, “what are you doing here?”. “Well, we are Scouts,” said the girls. “How can you be Scouts?” BP retorted. At that time, Scouting was very loosely organized, and there were self-organized patrols and units of Scouts – often without leaders – just kids reading “Scouting for Boys” and doing outdoorsy stuff. BP paused and said, “Well, alright. You may march in the opening parade, at the end.” And the girls marched and participated in the rally. Girls have been part of Scouting ever since. Gill mentioned that she heard this first hand from a centenarian Scout in the UK, who was one of those girl Scouts.
Things I didn’t ask: Seton’s famous book, “Wild Animals I Have Known”, which contains the pivotal story of Lobo and Blanco, we read by BP. BP soon after wrote, “Animals I Have Known.” I’ve always wondered what Seton thought of the BP copying his title….
I was not surprised at the interest and attendance by scout history nerds like myself. There were more beads there than you would find in a craft store. However, it was wonderful to see so many Scouts there – mostly girls – who wanted to hear from two Scouters about the values and circumstances that led to the world’s largest youth movement, which is now 55 million strong.
While there is no video of last night’s conversation, here is an interview with Gill Clay, conducted at the Summit:
Thank you Gill and Julie for sharing your stories with us, and for being the voices of our Founders. After more than 100 years, we need to hear these stories and values. They will drive us forward for the next 100 years.
It is a great pleasure to announce that Trail of an Artist-Naturalist, the autobiography of Ernest Thompson Seton is now available through the NESA store (http://nesastore.org/Ernest-Thompson-Seton-Trail-of-an-Artist-Naturalist.html.)
Julie Seton just returned from a lecture tour to Poland and the Czech Republic.
Here is a link to an interview she completed in the Czech Republic. Be sure to use Google Translate to read this information. The interview is in Czech, but Julie’s part is in English. They used a translator
Here is a link to the TV article about the Czech Republic Woodcraft League and Julie Seton’s visit.
The Academy for the Love of Learning recently invited twelve contemporary artists to create works of art inspired by Seton’s nature writing. The works include drawings, paintings and sculpture.
The works are now on exhibit in the Academy’s Art Gallery adjacent to Seton Castle in Santa Fe. Click here for more information.
Although Mrs. Mary Trindal’s pitch to Congress for making the wolf our country’s National Mammal was unsuccessful, her passionate plea to save the dwindling population is still important. See page 6 of the Animal Health Foundation‘s magazine for the details. The image is Seton’s “Sleeping Wolf” which hangs at the Seton Gallery on the Academy for the Love of Learning’s campus in Santa Fe, NM.
On 31 March at the NER JCOS annual meeting, Julie Seton gave the keynote address about ET Seton’s influence on the BSA.
A meeting report was published in the Smithtown Matters online news at: http://www.smithtownmatters.com/community-matters/2019/5/1/ne-region-jewish-committee-on-scouting-training-day.html.
Thanks to Phyllis Stein “The Camera Lady” for keeping track of the presentations.
Dr. Clyde Fisher and ET Seton were close friends. They traveled together in 1927 to tribal lands across the U.S. Dr. Fisher recorded some of the tribal dances. The film is held by the American Museum of Natural History and is digitized for broader access. Link is posted with permission from AMNH.