History of the Woodcraft Movement

History of the Woodcraft Movement
 

In 1900, Seton bought properties in Greenwich, CT, and started to build his own nature preserve he called Wyndygoul. Seton’s property was being vandalized by a group of boys from the local school. After he had to repaint his gate a number of times, he went to the school, and, rather than prosecuting them, he invited the boys to the property for a weekend of camping. He sat down with them and told them stories of Native Americans and nature.  This was the first test of his program of Woodcraft.  The organization was officially started on 1 July, 1902.

One unique feature of his outdoor program was that the boys elected their own leaders, a Chief, a Second Chief, a Keeper of the Tally and a keeper of the wampum. This was the beginning of his Woodcraft Indians, which later became the Woodcraft League of America. Seton wrote a series of articles for Ladies Home Journal in 1902 that were later compiled and published as the Birch Bark Roll and the Book of Woodcraft. At the urging of his friend Rudyard Kipling, Seton published Two Little Savages as a novel, rather than a dictionary of Woodcraft.

Seton was in England in 1906 as a guest of the Duke of Bedford, and was looking for people interested in establishing a youth development program based on outdoor life.  Through the Duke, he was introduced to Robert Baden-Powell. Seton gave Baden-Powell a copy of the Birch Bark Roll, and they corresponded from that point forward. In 1908, Baden-Powell wrote a letter to Seton stating that he was going ahead with his scheme for Scouting, based very much on Seton’s program. Baden-Powell incorporated many of the ideas, honors and games into his book, Scouting for Boys.

Seton established a program he called “brownies” in 1921 for age 6 through 11 girls and boys, based on his earlier book Woodland Tales that served as the origin of the Brownies in the Girl Scouts of America.

 

Around the Campfire

Seton was a good friend of Dr. and Mrs. Luther H. Gulick, founders of the Camp Fire Girls. Seton provided materials and a framework for them that became the first national organization for girls established in 911. Dr. Gulick was an educator and philanthropist working for the Russell Sage Foundation.  He was also a Woodcrafter and contributed to the Boy Scouts of America Scout Handbooks.

In 1915 Seton founded the Woodcraft League of America as a co-educational program open to children between ages “4 and 94”. There were many local Woodcraft groups in the United States in the early part of this century, and there are fifth-generation lone Woodcrafters who still active today. The only formal group today are the Woodcraft Rangers in Los Angeles, who offer nature camp and activities for inner-city children.

Publication of The Book of Woodcraft in 1912 inspired the formation of many Woodcraft groups around the world. If you have additional information on Woodcraft groups in Europe or elsewhere, please let us know.

 

 

WOODCRAFT IN EUROPE
UK WOODCRAFT
Kibbo Kift: John Hargrave, also known as “White Fox” was a Woodcraft and Boy Scout leader in England who adapted the Woodcraft Way for Scouts who lived far from other boys in the countryside of England and the U.K. Lonecraft, his best selling book, was the start of the UK Lone Scout program, and has been credited as one of the two books that popularized scouting and Woodcraft in Continental Europe, that other book being Seton’s Book of Woodcraft.

Hargrave delineated his own brand of Woodcraft in six books: Lonecraft (1912), Tribal Training (1919), Totem Talks (1918), Confession of the Kibbo Kift (1927), The Great War Brings it Home (1919) and Young Winkle (1925). The Kibbo Kift became the Green Shirts, or Social Credit Party of England in the early 1930’s. Contrary to occasional public opinion, the Kibbo Kift was an anti-fascist, anti-communist and anti-imperialist organization. Hargrave officially disbanded the Kibbo Kift in 1950.

Hargrave left the Boy Scout movement in 1919 to found the Kibbo Kift, a British Woodcraft group that drew from native British traditions as well as First People’s Lore. Some of the elders of the Kibbo Kift were Ruth “Minobi” Clark, Julian Huxley (who had been a mentor to Seton during his time in London), Havelock Ellis, Maurice Maeterlinck, R. Tagore, and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, the suffragette leader and revival Morris Dance leader.

The Order of Woodcraft Chivalry: Ernest and Aubrey Westlake, a father and son team of Quakers, founded the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry and the Forest School in the New Forest of England in 1915, with the help of Seton. The Order of Woodcraft Chivalry and the Forest School Camps exist to this day in England, where they teach permaculture and a respect for nature to its members and students.

The Woodcraft Folk: In 1924 Lesle Paul led a schism from the Kibbo Kift, and founded the Woodcraft Folk, which is still in existence in England as a Woodcraft movement for boys and girls, teaching principles of cooperation, fairness and a respect and appreciation for nature.

Whitby British Boy Scouts:

 

IRELAND, YUGOSLAVIA, BELGIUM, FRANCE
There were Woodcraft groups in all of these countries prior to WWII. Further information would be appreciated.

AUSTRIA
There is an Austrian group known as the Falcons that seems to be a Woodcraft organization. Further information would be appreciated.

FORMER CZECHOSLOVAKIA
(SLOVAKIA AND THE CZECH REPUBLIC
)
The oldest Woodcraft groups in Europe were probably the “Deti Ziveny”, or Children of Zivena (Slavic goddess of life and crops). This organization was founded by Professor Milos Seifert, a high school teacher, in 1912 in a small town near Prague. Many other Woodcraft groups have been established in the region known as Czechoslovakia in the pre-WWII years. Seton visited Czechoslovakia in 1936. When the communist regime fell in Czechoslovakia, seven hundred Woodcraft groups that had been masquerading as rod and reel, hiking, or canoe clubs came out of hiding and announced their identity as Woodcrafters. According to information provided to Dee Seton Barber, there are at least eight different organizations in the Czech Republic following some part of the Woodcraft Way.

POLAND
There have been Woodcraft groups in Poland since 1921, albeit with interruptions due to wars and political upheavals.The current Pathfinder Organization wants to protect the environment of Poland from the ravages of civilization and to live the Woodcraft Way.

RUSSIA
A Russian woman who visited Seton Castle in 1993 had belonged to a Siberian Woodcraft group in her childhood. Additional information would be welcome.

This page is based on material originally written by Dee Seton Barber