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A boy crawling out of a debris hut

"Keep close to Nature's heart

. . . and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean."

 

       - John Muir     

Purpose

Summer camps have an opportunity and an obligation to reintroduce boys to Nature, its power, and its beauty in order to offset the negative influences of society and allow young people to have more contact with the natural word.​

 

When the camping movement began in the 1870's, parents enrolled their children so they could escape the conditions of the big cities and spend some time in nature where they could live close to the earth, learn to build fires, and immerse themselves in the outdoors.

 

Perhaps the movement was inspired by Chief Seattle's warning to Franklin Pierce in 1854 that "Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself."Today, Chief Seattle's words are more meaningful than ever before, and ecologists, sociologists, and psychiatrists are telling us the same thing.​

 

For centuries the American Indians have known that the earth was alive and necessary for their very existence, and they kept their children close to its softening influence. However, today fewer and fewer of our children are spending time in the woods.​

As a boy, I was fortunate to have grown up in Natchez, Mississippi,

where my fascination with the Natchez Indians, eventually led to my earning a degree in early American history.

Growing up, I would spend many days wading barefooted in St. Catherine’s Creek searching for pottery shards and other Indian artifacts. In the spring I would walk through freshly plowed corn and cotton fields hoping to find arrow heads that tractors had brought to the surface.

 

I would stand on the 200 foot bluff overlooking the Mississippi River and atop Emerald Mound -- the seventh largest ceremonial Indian mound in the United States -- located near the Natchez Trace and try to imagine what it must have been like to  have been an Indian boy growing up in the forests of Southwest Mississippi.

When I was eleven years old, I joined a boy scout troop and couldn’t wait for our monthly weekend camping trips, where I learned basic wilderness skills: knot tying, fire building, first aid, cooking, and tracking.

 

It was about that time, that my parents gave me The Golden Book of Indian Crafts and Lore by Ben Hunt, which I began reading instantly. But I wanted more than just books about Indians and their crafts. I wanted to take my camping skills, put on a breechclout, and disappear into the woods for days at a time where I could be a part of nature and learn to live like the American Indians -- if only I had someone to teach me.

Almost twenty years of hiking and backpacking later, I finally met that teacher, Allen Flying By, a Hunkpapa Sioux from Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota. A soft-spoken man, he taught me about the Lakota, their culture, and the difficulty of life on the reservation today. 

 

With his guidance, Night Eagle was created, and a unique program was designed to build a boy's self-confidence as he learns to simplify his life, to live competently in the woods, and to foster a better understanding of native peoples, their culture, and their relationship with the earth. Great care is taken to develop a sensitivity to issues surrounding their customs, stories, and sacred rituals.

Each summer, Night Eagle deliberately sets out to create a world that is significantly different from the one we normally live in. In doing so, we invite boys to slow down, to explore and be daring, to examine themselves and their values, and to look beyond themselves and toward their relationship with the earth and others.

From the time a boy arrives at Night Eagle's gate, he knows he is not in a typical sleep-away camp. He shoulders his backpack and, accompanied by campers and staff, he walks along a trail that weaves through the forest behind our lower lake and then climbs a gentle hill to camp. When he reaches the clearing and the tipis come into view, the magic truly begins.

He can sense the feeling of community and openness that permeates the camp and is shared by campers and staff alike as they strive to feel the ground talk to their bare feet and the gentle breezes cloak their bodies and welcome them back to our Mother –– Earth.

Our Goals

  • Promote a better understanding of the American Indian and other earth-based cultures through camp lifestyle, discussions, stories, and other activities.

  • Give boys an understanding of the interconnection of all things, a reverence of life, a deep respect for the land, and the skills to live competently in the wilderness.

  • Foster simplicity of life by emphasizing fun, simple living, personal fitness, and an understanding of, and cooperation with, nature through practical experience.

  • Provide a fun, innovative experience so that boys learn to appreciate the worth of each individual, and build a close-knit community that values the strength that diverse backgrounds bring to a community.

A boy climbing a Sioux tipi to install smoke flap poles
A boy holding up a buffalo skull
A boy etching an artist mushroom
A boy wearing a papier. mache mask
Suvival skills -  boy lying in the doorway of his debris hut
Arts and crafts boy doing beading loom work
Two boys picking mint for their tea
Survival skills - A boy weaving a cattail basket
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