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  • Bruce Moreton

A Camper's First Summer at Night Eagle

Updated: Jan 13

This is a paper written by a former Night Eagle camper for his high school English class. He signed up for a three-week session his first summer and ended up staying the entire summer.

Camper at Night Eagle Wilderness

“His name is Meadow Dreamer, and that’s Marsh Hawk over there,” said Southern Sky, my counselor, introducing me to my new campmates.

I was utterly confused. What was I doing at this American Indian inspired camp in the middle of the Green Mountains of Vermont? How would I stay here for the summer? I was a 12-year-old boy from a suburban town who liked the outdoors, and here I was, ten miles from the nearest small town, with my clothes in a duffle bag and supplies in my backpack ready to live in a tipi.

I was young and insecure, contemplating my camp choice as Southern Sky ushered me and my parents toward a twenty foot tipi. He explained to me how everyone at camp has a name based on native culture symbolism that represents his positive qualities. Wondering what my new name would be, I was nervous but captivated as my adventure began.

I have always had an appreciation for the outdoors, fishing almost every weekend with my dad, watching birds in the backyard with my grandma, or traveling to the Adirondacks and attempting to hike its daunting peaks with my family. This summer camp provided much more than living in the outdoors; it offered a community. It was here where I learned to separate myself from the cliques of society, from the social hierarchy that runs rampant in our high schools. I used to want to fit in and feel accepted, but at this camp I could be who I wanted to be.

I had the opportunity to try new experiences and embrace the unfamiliar, such as living with no electricity while relying on each other for cooking food and providing firewood. I lived in the woods with a group of individuals that some may call tree huggers, hippies, or just outcasts. But to me, they became my brothers.

Boys playing Rattlesnake at Night Eagle Wilderness

I was thrown into the freedom of the outdoors, and one activity in particular strongly resonated with me: the “Get Lost” hikes. It was these hikes that led us deep into the woods, bush-whacking off trails where I had only my sense of direction to get back to camp. I remember the exhilaration of working together as a team, exploring and taking in the nature around us. Often as team leader, I would carve out our paths, taking our team up an unexplored mountain with a compass in hand. I was not afraid, and these hikes made me realize that maybe the best path is the one that no one takes.

I ran around barefoot, playing and laughing. I explored the woods and learned how to live off the earth. I was proud of my separation from “society.” I was shirtless and free, and I connected back to nature, which has a powerful ability to bring us together and learn what is really meaningful.

At the end of my first of three weeks at this camp, I was finally given my own American Indian inspired camp name: Rainbow Medicine. The Rainbow represents the “Rainbow Race,” an idea created by the Lakota that all humans should live in harmony. Rainbow was used in my name to represent my friendliness and acceptance of others. Medicine represents the idea of the “Medicine Man.” the spiritual leader of the village. I recognized that my name fits who I truly am, someone who works hard to make others feel included, always strives to learn more, and guides others as best as I can.

At the moment my name was given, I realized what this place means to me. It is a place of meditation and introspection, where there is a community around you that supports and teaches you what it means to be happy, live a full life, and be close with others. All lessons I carry with me wherever I go.


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