“Rites of Passage are a
lost art, yet boys hunger for them and need them to mark their passage into manhood."
"To Be A Man" (A Weeklong Rite of Passage for Boys 12-16)
Several years ago, Night Eagle offered a weeklong Rite of Passage program for boys ages 12-16 that focused on What It Means To Be A Man. Since that time parents have asked us if we could continue the program.
Most people will agree that it is difficult to be a boy in today's world. In The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It, Dr. Philip Zimbardo set out to learn what was contributing to the motivational and social problems in today's boys. Nearly 70% of the participants agreed that it was because of conflicting messages from media, institutions, parents, and peers about what is acceptable male behavior. Simply put, boys are not sure about what it means to be a man and are having difficulty transitioning to manhood.
Dr. George Burkitt adds that, “Today’s teenage boys approach manhood with apprehension and uncertainty if not reluctance. Some would prefer to avoid "manhood" or at least the responsibility that it entails.” Today’s average school-age boy spends thirty minutes a week in one-on-one conversation with his father and an average of forty-four hours a week in front of a television or computer screen.
According to Michael Gurian, the author of The Wonder of Boys and The Good Son: Shaping the Moral Development of Boys and Young Men, "Rites of passage are a lost art, yet our pubescent boys (9-14) hunger for them. For over two decades, anthropological studies have confirmed that males need rites in order to mark their passage into manhood." The need for these Rites correlates biologically to hunter/gather times. Although the majority of today's boys and men
do not hunt prey with weapons, they do seek the challenge that the hunt implies.
In Lakota society boys became adults through ritual, initiation, and meaningful tradition. This sacred rite of passage Hembleciya (Vision Quest) consisted of a boy spending one to four days and nights secluded in nature and provided him with time to communicate with the fundamental forces and spiritual energies of creation and understand his purpose
in life. During this time of intense spiritual communication, he received profound insight into himself and the world and transitioned between childhood and full acceptance into society as an adult.
Although we cannot lead boys on Vision Quests, we can assist them as they
make the difficult and confusing transition from childhood to adulthood
and try to help them answer questions such as "Who am I?" "What do I
have to offer?" "Why do I feel the way I do?"
We know that there comes a time in every boy's life when he must leave
family and friends and go off alone. By participating in "To Be A Man" we
hope that boys will learn what it means to become an adult, take respon-
sibility for himself, and make a meaningful contribution to society.
Through community building, discussions, and reflection, the program will
focus on What It Means to Become a Man and conclude with a twenty-four
hour Quest that is not to be confused with the Vision Quest taken by Lakota.
It is our aim to help Night Eagle campers make the transition from boyhood
to mature adulthood in an environment in which they feel safe and among
For further information, see the "To Be A Man" Parents' Handbook in the Documents section of this site under Parents or call the office. We'll be happy to talk with you about the program!
Note: In order to offer the program, we need a minimum of six participants.