The first Woodcraft Indian tribe was established at Seton’s 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 Ladies 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 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.
Seton was a good friend of Dr. and Mrs. Luther H. Gulick, founders of the Camp Fire Girls. Dr. 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.
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.
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.
(SLOVAKIA AND THE CZECH REPUBLIC)
This page is based on material originally written by Dee Seton Barber