Tonight is Tapping Fire!!

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

Another early morning and another breakfast of eggs and sausage. Owing to a minor accident, the cook staff has been a bit short-handed this week (bad pun: one of the cooks burnt her hand). Therefore, Mr. Covington and another adult arose at 4:30 AM to head to the dining hall to pitch in. This morning, they cooked eggs for all several hundred campers. You haven’t scrambled eggs until you have scrambled eggs for 64 people at one time. Now, do that eight or nine times and then you’ve really scrambled!

Once again, our new Scouts (Jacob Branson, Ryan Bussey, Caden Czech, Kunal Dave, Ethan Gardsbane, Nipun Grandhi, Jeremy Halbach, Will Harris, Sid Konduru, Arnav Mehra, Matthew Richards, Luke Samson, Rithik Saripella, Sammuel Warren, and Gage Wildman) headed off to Trail to First Class. By the end of the week, these boys will probably have  advanced a rank or two. One can learn a lot in five full mornings of instruction and evaluation.

Yesterday, temperatures reached the mid-80s. To us Texans, that doesn’t sound bad at all. Anything under 100 degrees Fahrenheit seems almost cool to us by mid-June, typically. However, Tuesday night was graced by a considerable rain, leaving the humidity near 100 %.

I apologize to loyal blog followers in advance. It is unlikely that the post describing tonight’s exciting events will be posted tonight, as this night runs very, very late and this writer got up very, very early. So, to assuage those who require their daily fix of “Troop 451 at Geiger”, I will offer the following:

Tonight, our young men who are at camp Geiger for the third summer and who have advanced in Scouting rank, will be eligible for induction into the Tribe of Mic-O-Say. The Tribe is the honor camping society of Camp Geiger.

The Tribe was founded in the 1920s (1925), as were many other honor camping societies of the Boy Scouts of America, such as Firecrafters, Ku-Ni-eh, and the Tribe of Gimogash. The National Capital Area Council had the Clan of the Mystic Oak. In common, these organizations sought to promote Scouting’s ideals by offering recognition and encouragement to particularly-promising Scouts. Similarly, the Order of the Arrow (OA) was also founded in the 1920s (1922) as the Tribe of Wimachtendienk. Unlike Mic-O-Say, it did not become affiliated with the BSA until ten years later. Many other honor camping societies appeared at BSA camps around the country. Almost all of these emphasized native American-inspired themes.

By the late 1940s, the BSA recognized a need for greater coordination among these organizations, and to extend the opportunity of becoming a member to Scouts whose camps and Councils did not have such a group. Thus, the Order of the Arrow became the official national honor camping society for the BSA in 1948 and, over time, subsumed most of the various societies around the country. Ultimately, only a small handful of local honor camping societies, such as the Tribe of Mic-o-Say continued to exist. Other survivors include the Tribe of Tahquitz, and the Firecrafters.

You may be wondering, why the native American-inspired themes? What is the connection between the BSA and American Indians? Well, the link goes back to the very origins of Boy Scouting, in southern Africa at the end of the 19th century.

We all known and admire Lord Robert Baden-Powell (affectionately known as ‘BP’) as the founder of the international Scouting movement. So how is there a link to Native American traditions in British southern Africa?

During the Second Matabelele War in southern Africa, BP met and befriended an American scout, Frederick Russell Burnham. Burnham introduced BP to stories of the American Old West and to the ways of scoutcraft. It was during this time that BP, inspired by Burnham’s attire, first wore the familiar Stetson campaign hat and neckerchief. These later became early emblems of Boy Scouting.

Burnham was born on a Lakota Sioux Indian reservation in Minnesota in 1861. From the Sioux, he grew up learning the ways of American Indians. As an adult, he served as a U.S. Army scout during the wars against the Apaches. Feeling that the ‘wild’ West was becoming too tame, Burnham sought a new frontier and headed to Africa in 1893.

In Africa, he worked for the British military and was awarded the rank of Major by King Edward VII, among other honors recognizing his bravery and contribution to British Imperialism. He became friends with Baden-Powell during the Second Matabele War in Rhodesia. At this time, he taught BP the ways of American Indian and pioneer scoutcraft which BP would later use to good effect at the siege of Mafeking during the Second Boer War. In fact, BP was so taken with the successful application of these techniques to military use that he wrote a book to teach these skills to other British soldiers.

This book, Aids to Scouting, became popular with the British military and helped secure the fame BP had won as the hero of Mafeking. Unexpectedly, the book found an audience among young people, especially boys, and among adult civilians who felt that something important was being lost in the rapidly-urbanizing Western World. Many folks felt that young people needed to be acquainted with Nature and the ways of the outdoors. Aids to Scouting, describing techniques BP had refined based on what Burnham had told him, served as a template for these progressive people to organize outdoor-focused organizations for young people. Inspired by the enthusiastic reception his book received among civilians, he adapted it into Scouting for Boys, which later became the inspiration for the Scout Handbook.

Thus, even before William D. Boyce brought the Scouting movement to the United States in 1910, Scouting was inextricably linked to Native American tradition.

As the 20th century dawned, many groups were founded with the express goal of keeping youth in touch with the outdoors. Among these were popular author Ernest Thompson Seton’s Woodcraft Indians. This organization, as its name indicates, based its outdoor focus in Native American-inspired traditions, lore, and skills. Seton and BP met in 1906. BP had read Seton’s book The Birch Bark Roll of the Woodcraft Indians and found its ideas congruent with his own.

At about this time, Daniel Carter Beard organized the Sons of Daniel Boone, basing his outdoor program on the experience of American Pioneers.

Eventually, Seton’s Woodcraft Indians and Beard’s Sons of Daniel Boone merged with Boyce’s Boy Scouts to become the Boy Scouts of America and Beard and Seton became influential leaders in the BSA, as did Frederick Russell Burnham.

Thus, even before the Scouting movement began in England in 1907, it was intimately-linked to the traditions of Native Americans. Today, Boy Scout organizations such as OA and Mic-O-Say keep this proud heritage alive.

Tomorrow, we will describe this year’s Tapping Ceremony where candidates for induction into the Tribe of Mic-O-Say are publicly recognized. For those who can attend the Tapping Ceremony in person, it is an unforgettable experience. Now, armed with this brief background, you may be better able to appreciate tomorrow’s post.


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