History of the Woodcraft Movement

History of the Woodcraft Movement


The First Woodcraft Tribe was established at Windyghoul estate at Cos Cob, CT in 1902. Seton’s property had been 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 invited the boys to the property for a weekend, rather than prosecuting them. He sat down with them and told them stories of Native Americans and nature.

The unique feature of his 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 Lady’s Home Journal in 1902 that were later published as the Birch Bark Rolls 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 this sort of an outdoor organization. Through the Duke, he was introduced to Baden Powell, and Seton gave Baden Powell a copy of the Birch Bark Roll, and they corresponded from that point forward. Seton received a letter from Baden Powell in 1908, 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.


Seton was a good friend of Mr. and Mrs. Luther H. Gulick, who founded the Camp Fire Girls. Mr. Gulick was a member of the Woodcraft Advisory Board for a number of years. Seton provided materials and a framework for their new organization for girls.

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 third-generation Woodcrafters who are still active in the movement. The best known group today are The WoodCraft Rangers in Los Angeles, who have a nature camp and activities for inner city children. There are camps following the Woodcraft Program in the United States and Canada that were founded by Seton’s friends and students.

Woodcraft%20-%20Snake%20Dance.jpgPublication 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.




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 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.

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.

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.

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.


There were Woodcraft groups in all of these countries prior to WWII. Futher information would be appreciated.


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


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, and 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.


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.


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

One thought on “History of the Woodcraft Movement

  1. Paul Tucker

    I am Paul Tucker.
    I was a Woodcraft Ranger in the 1960’s in San Dimas California. I was part of the Seminole tribe. My father Raymond Tucker was a Guide and when I turned 16, I became a Jr. Guide. The Woodcraft Rangers was a very positive orignization in my life. Fact of the matter my entire family was involved. Our tribe got so big that we had to split t.he tribe into four tribes. I would be interested in discussing this further if anyone is interested.
    Paul M Tucker

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