Thursday, December 29, 2005

Report from 2005 Woodcraft International Gathering

A look back at the 4th BlueSky!!!WorldWoodcraft international gathering that took place July 31st through August 13th, 2005. Preparations filled the week beforehand, getting in mountains of supplies and setting up camp at the Gordon Brown Outdoor Environmental Educational Centre in Hampshire, southern England. Since the 2002 gathering in the Czech Republic, Mick Tutt (Pelican), Gathering Convenor (and now International Liaison person) of the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry (OWC), had been planning the campsite accommodations and program. (Full details are posted on this site elsewhere.) I arrived for the set-up, and was delighted to find friends from previous camps, both from the Czech Republic and the UK, already in residence.

The camp-ground housed several permanent teepees soon added to by tents large and small. Being one of the ‘elders’ I had the luxury of a real bed and private bath inside the main building. During the pre-camp we had use of the inside kitchen, but this was swiftly replaced by the camp kitchen set up outside with wood cook-stoves and griddles. One of the major activities at camp is always providing enough wood for the huge meals; outdoor life makes for large appetites and there were at least 75 of us on site. Each group took part as Clan in charge of meals for a particular day; from the eldest to the youngest there was a job for all.

After breakfast at Rally we got our orders for the day; wood cutting (from a nearby brush pile), Clan, and activities ranging from sports (I learned how to correctly hit a volleyball from the Czech girls), running games, beadwork, tie dying, finger braiding and knotting (Rosanna, a Czech girl, was very talented at this), making corn dollies, bags, mocassins and wood carving (to name but a few). Any talent anyone wanted to share was welcomed. Always popular was learning to make fire by rubbing sticks. We set up marquees to protect the arts and crafts, but were lucky with the weather after one bout of heavy rain. On two days we practiced handbell ringing. Tim Willetts even led us around the camp playing his precious bells. Some of the bigger lads helped Clive Bowen, the Gathering Craftsman, carve a totem pole to be left at the GB Centre as thanks for having us. It was completed after I left, but a photo shows a spread-winged eagle atop the pole with the Seton insignia of a shield with buffalo horns and other carvings below.

The formal opening of the camp was, as always, around the ceremonial fire, lit by one of the Czechs with a flint lighter. It is always amazing to see how fast they can get a blaze going without matches or butane! (The Czechs are real campers, as are the inimitable Westlake/Bowen families!) Everyone gathers around the Ceremonial Circle, surrounded by the regalia and symbols of all groups present, the OWC leaders wearing their impressive robes of office. I was honored once again to be the Representative of the West, to drop my ashes from a previous fire into “the same fire and always new” and say: “Behold I come with Greetings from your brethren of the West – bringing the Gift of Life, fulfilled, mature and rich in experience and wealth of wisdom, love and peace.” Czechs from the East, Forest Campers from the North, and OWC from the South completed the ceremony. This coming together is always one of the highlights of the camp and my only regret is that I am usually the lone representative of North America, the home of the first Seton Woodcrafters. I also read a letter of welcome, simultaneously translated by one of the Czech teachers, from the Academy for the Love of Learning, the new owners of Seton Castle and grounds outside Santa Fe.

During the week we learned each other’s songs and games, and exchanged crafts and stories, renewed old friendships and made new ones. One ‘tribe’ from the Czech Republic used Sioux Indian puppets to tell a legend (holding up English translation cards as they went along). Their drum played for a lively dance evening; the Czech groups favor 19th Century Sioux dress, crafts and dances, learned assiduously from careful research. During the week another bevy of Indians arrived – schoolchildren from Inner London, of Asian descent. They were welcomed into the activities of the Woodcrafters, and again, new friends were made, new dances shared, and Seton’s teachings upheld. I left a copy of Two Little Savages with Dave Twig of the GB Centre who was intrigued by Ernest Thompson Seton’s ideals and ethics.

Much effort goes into this tri-annual camp, next to be held in 2008 probably in the Czech Republic. We were sad that former Czech leader, Martin Kupka (Logan) and family were unable to attend, but Klara and Tomas and Czech Liga Lensi Moudrosti (Woodcraft League) chieftain, Ales Sedelak, worked with Mick Tutt and other OWC leaders on discussions about the future hopes and prospects of BlueSky!!!WorldWoodcraft. I for one hope it continues from strength to strength; these gatherings are not only enjoyable, but inspiring as well. My postcards would have said: “Having a wonderful time, wish you were here.”

Barbara Witemeyer
December 29, 2005

Monday, December 26, 2005

Preservation Online: Today's News Archives: Fire Destroys New Mexico Castle

Preservation Online: Today's News Archives: Fire Destroys New Mexico Castle: "Fire Destroys New Mexico Castle

Story by Margaret Foster / Nov. 17, 2005

Fire Destroys New Mexico Castle

Story by Margaret Foster / Nov. 17, 2005

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Seton Castle was less than a year into a $2 million restoration. (The Academy for the Love of Learning)
A 70-year-old castle burned down on Tuesday while undergoing a $2 million restoration.

No one was hurt in the blaze, which left little but the stone walls of Seton Castle, located south of Santa Fe, N.M.

"It was totally destroyed," says Judd Dean, Hondo Volunteer Fire Department's fire chief. "[The fire] was very, very fast. Three of the workers had to jump off the roof to escape. The building had been around for decades, and the fire just roared through the whole thing."

Seton Castle was the home of artist and naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton (1860-1946), who helped found the Boy Scouts of America. Seton designed the 32-room castle himself in 1933, situating it on a hilltop on his 100-acre estate. Two years ago, his daughter sold the building—a National Historic Landmark—to the Santa Fe-based Academy for the Love of Learning, which won a $330,000 federal grant to repair water and vandalism damage.

The academy and its contractor, Wolf Corp., began restoring the building as an educational center early this year. At a groundbreaking ceremony in January, academy employees, along with many of Seton's ancestors, started a fire that "symbolically cleared our way of the potential obstacles ahead through the purification of fire," according to the academy's Web site.

The project was going well until the blaze, whose cause state investigators have not yet determined. So far, workers had cleaned and repaired the castle's exterior stonework, repaired windows and doors, created a new access road to the castle, and laid the foundations for a new caretaker's cottage and an art studio nearby. The academy was restoring more than 50 of Seton's works of art, including drawings and sketches.

The castle was scheduled to open to the public next fall.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Seton Castle Unlikely to be Rebuilt

Seton Castle unlikely to be rebuilt
Group that owns historic building plans to still use land for education
By Julie Ann Grimm The New Mexican
The historic Seton Castle — destroyed by fire this fall — probably won’t be rebuilt, but the nonprofit educational group that owns it plans to continue to use the land. State fire investigators have yet to determine what caused the Nov. 15 blaze that left the 32-room home in ruins and blanketed Seton Village south of Santa Fe in thick smoke for most of the midday. The Academy for the Love of Learning was two-thirds finished with a $2 million restoration project when the fire left standing only the building’s original stone walls. The castle was to be a space for children and teachers and to hold conferences on environmental and cultural issues. Embedded artwork and original woodwork had been cleaned and refinished, replacement windows were removed and restored to look more like the originals and a new radiant-heat system and floors had been installed — all of which perished in the fire. A work crew that was inside when the smoke appeared escaped without injury. “While the fire wrought changes in the plans and timing for the academy’s center on the land at Seton Castle, our vision for affecting culture change in education is very much alive,” academy founder Aaron Stern wrote in a letter to supporters earlier this month. The castle, built and named by naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton about 70 years ago, was a private home until 1998. In 2003, Seton’s family sold the property to the academy. Fortunately, at the time of the fire, hundreds of writings, artwork and other historic artifacts that belonged to Seton had been removed from the home. The academy plans a public showing of the work next fall in Santa Fe. It also plans to hold a series of public meetings to explore how it can best meet the “needs and longings that we share for a right education for children” Stern wrote. “Woven into this process will be an exploration of the next steps in creating on the Seton land a new Academy center to support our work.” The building was insured for fire, and the academy is working to recover some of its investment from its insurance company. One of the foundation’s major donors made a quiet commitment to match any donations received before March 31, the letter says. To reach the academy, call 995-1860 or log on to

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Bibliography of Seton short stories/articles?

I am a librarian seeking a bibliography of Seton's short stories and articles. What I am specifically looking for is a reference to a story about wild dogs of New York City -- or possibly pets who have gone wild in New York City. It was supposedly published in a journal called "The American" in the 1910s or 1920s. Unfortunately I do not have a title.

My goal is to get a copy of the story, so if anyone knows another place where the story can be located (a collection?), that would also be great.

Thank you,
Anne Killheffer
Reference Librarian
Stratford Library Association
2203 Main St., Stratford, CT 06615


Seton Paintings

I have enjoyed reading your Blue Skies blog, which I discovered today. I also learned today about the fire at the Seton Castle, and am greatly saddened by the news. I visited the Castle in 2001 and was much impressed by it. Thanks for posting additional information about the fire, along with your and others' reactions to this terrible event.

I read the first posting on your blog (from January 2005) and noticed a comment to that post by a person named Ira who said he owns three original Seton works of art. Ira invited readers to contact him if they wished to see photos of the artwork. The link to Ira's email address is no longer working, and I am wondering if you have an up-to-date email address for him that you could provide to me.


Stefan Herpel

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Arson ruled out in Seton Castle fire

State and federal investigators have yet to determine the cause of a fire that nearly destroyed the Seton Castle last month. James Maxon, an investigator with the state Fire Marshal’s Office, said Monday he’s still testing a hypothesis about what started the fire at the historic home built by Boy Scouts of America co-founder Ernest Thompson Seton. An agent from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is helping the state, but at this point in the investigation, arson has been ruled out, Maxon said. “We did not feel that this fire was intentionally set.” The investigation could take several more weeks or months depending on what is uncovered, he said. Maxon said no one is being held culpable in the fire, but that could change with more evidence. A construction crew was working on a renovation inside the 32-room building when the fire broke out Nov. 15, however no one was hurt in the blaze. The Academy for the Love of Learning, which has owned the structure since 2003, has not determined whether it will rebuild. eNew Mexican

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Notes on the Fire by David Witt, Seton Collection Curator for the Academy for the Love of Learning

Seton Castle Fire November 15, 2005
The Academy for the Love of Learning, based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is a non-profit educational and research organization, whose mission is to awaken, enliven, nurture and sustain the natural love of learning in people of all ages. The Academy acquired Seton Castle in 2003 and earlier this year began a historically accurate renovation. The project was about three-quarters completed when the fire occurred. Information on the Academy and its programs is available on our website. More news about the fire and how you can help will also soon be posted.>

Notes on the fire are by David L. Witt, Seton Collection Curator for the Academy.

The first reaction to the death of a building is disorientation as the mind refuses to comprehend: billowing black smoke rises as if thrown up from a volcanic explosion on the hilltop. Residents of Seton Village rush outside of their homes only to stand as if frozen until cries of “the Castle!” from several present state the unthinkably obvious. Then the other senses come into play as the acrid scent of burned material, the taste of blowing dust, and the touch of fire heat overtake everyone.
Then sound creates yet another level of lasting impression. The first measures of barely audible crackling begin the movement in an ominous fashion. As we approach, a building noise crescendo comes from the roaring of burning wood and the play of winds, some atmospheric and others self-generated. Additional sounds are layered in – the generators and engines of fire trucks, the rush of liquid streams aimed at the conflagration, and finally passages of vocal accompaniment as firefighters give commands and helpless civilian onlookers tell stories of their escape or speculate on what is happening before us. After a couple hours of dramatic conflagration, the fire quiets to the low sizzle of flame, the popping of cooling masonry, the expanding and contracting of metal like little shrieks of percussion events.
With original construction begun around seventy-four years ago, and renovation started in the early part of this year, we witness the end of this phase of the Castle restoration. But even in the midst of the destruction, several persons dare to suggest that this transformation gives rise to hope for new creation, a rebuilding which will honor the Castle’s past and forward its legacy into the future. Historical layers (physical and memory) are fractal-like in complexity, a continuation of old patterns in ever renewing variations. That is, every moment past also leads to a new beginning, even from tragedy.
Seton states in Book of Woodcraft and The Gospel of the Redman the importance of overcoming the fear of death. The death of a building is not exactly what he had in mind, but his Woodcraft principles provide guidance (and maybe consolation) as we move on to create the next phase of Seton Castle history. Two traits he valued were courage and perseverance, demonstrated in the Four Lamps (or laws) of Woodcraft – Beauty, Truth, Fortitude, and Love. Taking just one example from each: The Lamp of Beauty: “Conserve the woods and flowers and especially be ready to fight wild fire in forest or in town.” In the event, fire fighters and wind conditions kept the fire from spreading into the piƱon woodland or neighboring houses. The Lamp of Truth: “Be reverent.” The majesty of unstoppable fire forces at least a kind of respect, but also a sincere thankfulness that all the construction workers and firefighters escaped injury. The Lamp of Fortitude: “Be brave. Courage is the noblest of all attainments.” We need this as we face the rebuilding. The Lamp of Love: “Be joyful. Seek the joy of being alive.”
The staff of the Academy for the Love of Learning, residents of Seton Village, and a large number of concerned persons (via email, phone contact, etc.) have come together for mutual support. A gathering took place there on November 30th for those most directly affected. Paying homage to our beloved Castle is the kind of “tribal” gathering Seton would have approved.

Editor's Comment

I received this submission from David Witt this morning. I met with David in early October in Taos and had planned to write about our visit in this venue when news of the fire reached me a few weeks later. I instantly felt comfortably with David as he shared his story about working at Philmont in his college days, including a stint at the Seton Library. He was drawn by the magic of New Mexico as many others, myself included, have been and has lived in the area now for many years. We specifically discussed ways in which interested people can help in the restoration of Seton works and other possible collaborative efforts. I expect you will hear more on the those topics soon.


Friday, November 18, 2005

Feds comb through historic home’s ruins

The New Mexican November 17, 2005
As the community mourned the loss of a historic landmark, federal agents were called to an investigation at the remains of Seton Castle on Wednesday. The building south of Santa Fe was left in ruins by a fire that began around lunchtime Tuesday while construction crews worked on a restoration project. The fire’s cause might be determined as early as today, said James Maxon, an investigator with the state Fire Marshal’s Office. Maxon said he called in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to help conduct a joint investigation because his department doesn’t have the kind of manpower needed. Statements from about 20 people who were either working inside or near the home Tuesday indicate the fire began on the north end, in the music room, Maxon said. “To be honest, we don’t really know one way or the other (who or what started the fire),” he said. “We usually don’t take a guess until we go in there and see what we are dealing with.” ATF helps local fire investigators determine the cause and provides expertise in arson, according to agent Kent Masters, who said the agency has not ruled on whether the fire was accidental. Construction workers were midway through a renovation project on the 70-year-old structure designed by Ernest Thompson Seton. The building’s owner, the Academy for the Love of Learning, had planned to use it as an educational center and had a $300,000 federal grant for the work. Seton, a famed naturalist, artist and author, helped establish the Boy Scouts of America and lived in the 32-room home from 1934 until his death in 1946. He left behind hundreds of paintings, rare books and artifacts. The expansive, multilevel home occupied about 6,900 square feet. “Castle was a little bit of a misnomer ,” said Donato Jaggers, education-resources coordinator for the academy. “Seton was English by birth with Scottish ancestry, and we understand that Seton Castle was a name that he and his wife gave to the house as sort of a grand title.” Seton’s collection had been removed from the castle prior to the construction project. Jaggers said the paintings will be restored and made available for public exhibition. The academy is still reeling from the fire, he said. The building, listed as a National Historic Landmark, was insured for construction risks. The Santa Fe County assessor last valued the property at $763,000 in 2000. Asked what he suspected was behind the fire or if he blamed the construction crew, Jaggers said, “We’re not worried about that at this point. Our main feeling is absolute gratitude and relief that they all got out safely.” Long-time local Lew Thompson has fond memories of time spent in Seton Castle. Thompson lives on land he bought from Seton’s wife, Julia Seton, and had visited the home on many occasions. He recalls sitting for hours in a stairwell that led to the castle’s “second or third basement” with Julia reminiscing about her husband. Thompson was heartbroken over the fire. “I felt like crying, and I couldn’t look,” he said, “but I couldn’t help looking. I saw the plume of smoke from my house, and I went right over knowing all the time I was getting there that it, indeed, was the castle burning. ... It’s a great loss of a Santa Fe institution.” Seton biographer Jack Samson called the building’s demise tragic. “It was a shame, a real shame,” he said Wednesday during a phone interview from his Santa Fe home. “It was a lovely building and a real nostalgic place.” Samson, who was editor of Field and Stream magazine for 15 years, wrote The Worlds of Ernest Thompson Seton. He said the naturalist was influential across the globe and received many foreign visitors. Jason Auslander contributed to this report. Contact Julie Ann Grimm at 986-3017 or jgrimm@sfnewmexican .com

Wednesday, November 16, 2005 - News - Cause Unknown In Seton Castle Blaze - News - Cause Unknown In Seton Castle Blaze: "Cause Unknown In Seton Castle Blaze
POSTED: 7:57 am MST November 16, 2005
UPDATED: 8:06 am MST November 16, 2005
SANTA FE, N.M. -- Firefighters said they do not yet know what caused a fire that destroyed the historic Seton Castle southeast of Santa Fe.
A construction crew was midway through a $2 million renovation of the stately 70-year-old building south of Santa Fe when the fire started Tueday.
Hondo Volunteer Fire Chief Judd Dean says that when the first firefighters arrived, flames had already breached the building's roof.
The 32-room, 6,900-square-foot castle near Arroyo Hondo is a National Historic Landmark and New Mexico State Cultural Property.
In 2003, the family of naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton sold the castle to the Arizona-based Academy for the Love of Learning."

Seton Castle: A Personal Reflection

Yesterday was a long day. I spent the morning on a variety of business matters, attended a funeral and hopped on a plane for a business trip, expecting to meet a friend for dinner in Dallas before turning in for the night. When the plane landed and I turned on my Blackberry, it was filled with messages about yesterday’s events in Santa Fe.

We travel to Santa Fe regularly, most recently in October, when I had the chance to check on the progress of the Castle restoration and have a very good meeting with the curator of the Seton collection for the Academy for the Love of Learning.

The Castle has been something of great interest to me since I first visited it over thirteen years ago.

I had been aware of the Castle for many years, since I have been a Seton enthusiast for a very long time. Although I have spent a lot of time in and around Santa Fe, I had never been to Seton Village or Seton Castle. One particular day, as I was perusing collectible books in antique book stores in Santa Fe (regrettably there aren’t nearly as many as there used to be), two different dealers suggested that we drive out to the Village and gave us directions. We took that a sign that this was the right day for such a visit.

We drove out to the Village and wandered around a bit and were finally directed to the Castle by a neighbor. I very rarely have knocked on the door of someone I do not know, so it was with great trepidation that, with my wife’s encouragement, I knocked on the door of Seton Castle. We were greeted by Dale Barber, Seton’s son-in-law, and husband of Dee Seton Barber. He invited us and told us that Dee was away for a few minutes but would soon be returning.

When she returned, Dee greeted us warmly and we talked. She gave us a tour of the Castle. I remember nearly every detail, including my first look at The Sleeping Wolf. Dee told us of the many pilgrims who made their way to the Castle and to her astonishment at their letters she was receiving from all over the world, especially from former Soviet bloc countries, including the Czech Republic, which told of Woodcraft groups that had remained active through the years on an underground basis. She told many more stories.

We stayed far longer than we had planned and the sun was setting when it came time to leave. I will always remember the sight of sunset from the porch of Seton Castle. At that point, it was perfectly clear to me why Ernest Thompson Seton and his wife Julia chose that particular site for their final home.

More to come

I hope other will choose to share their personal stories too.

Link to New Mexican Report

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Historic Castle Burns Tuesday

Curator: Extent Of Damage Too Early To Tell
POSTED: 7:39 pm MST November 15, 2005
UPDATED: 7:43 pm MST November 15, 2005
SANTA FE, N.M. -- A national historic landmark in Santa Fe has been reduced to stone and ash.
On Tuesday, fire tore through the Seton Castle, which is very well known to some and virtually unknown to others.
The sprawling building was home to Ernest Thompson Seton, who was a noted naturalist and co-founder of the Boy Scouts Of America.
It was under renovation, and crews had just broken for lunch Tuesday afternoon when fire decimated the building.
By most accounts, the fire moved very quickly, collapsing parts of the third story onto the rest of the building with minutes.
The castle was designed by Seton and built around 1930. It rambled along according to his design, which made for a unique place 45 rooms large.
The Academy For The Love Of Learning bought the castle three years ago and was renovating it to become their base of operations and a learning center.
"We'll spend some time assessing. I'm sure we'll be talking with engineers to find out what's happened to the building. The wooden parts of it are gone," said David Witt, Seton Castle curator. "As (for) the rest of it, I don't know. They've done a lot of stabilization on it in the last eight months and so maybe that saved it. It's too early to tell."
Fire crews on the scene this afternoon weren't sure where or how it started, though some of the workers believe it began in the west end of the building.
Seton Castle is being restored using a grant from the federal government.
That grant is more than $300,000.

Seton Castle destroyed by fire (The New Mexican)

The New Mexican November 15, 2005
A wind-swept fire in an area with little water destroyed the historic Seton Castle Tuesday. The fire began shortly after noon and was still burning two hours later. The cause is unknown at this time.The castle was likely a total loss, spectators at the scene said, but the historic documents and artifacts from the home had been removed before a renovation project started earlier this year."All of our vision was built around what we were going to do here. I'm sure the work will go on, but it's a shock", said Sage Magdalene, administrative assistant for the Academy for the Love of Learning Center, which aquired the property.Construction crews were midway through a year-long construction project and were working inside the castle when the fire started. All escaped without injury.The 32-room, 6,900-square-foot stone-and-mortar castle on 80 acres is a National Historic Landmark and New Mexico State Cultural Property but was in dilapidated condition. Naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton built the castle 70 years ago.Aaron Stern, whose Academy for the Love of Learning Center bought the property in 2003, wanted to restore Seton's legacy and use the space for teaching children and teachers and holding conferences on environmental and cultural issues.Stern planned to make the castle and surrounding property a place where children can learn about nature and the ideas espoused by Seton, who founded Boys Scouts of America. Seton authored more than 60 books on nature and other subjects, and left behind thousands of his own paintings and drawings. Seton lived at the castle from 1934 until his death in 1946 at age 86. His wife, Julia, founder of Campfire Girls, died in 1968, and daughter Dee Seton Barber lived in the castle until 1998.While famous for starting the Boy Scouts, Seton abandoned the group because he believed it had become too militaristic.Even in serious disrepair, the castle has received numerous visitors over the years.Researchers have also used Seton's work at the Seton Institute in Manitoba, Canada, the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institute. Look for additional details in tomorrow's The New Mexican.

Seton Castle Fire

I have just learned that Seton Castle burned to the ground today. The Castle was in the midst of a year-long restoration. The cause of the fire was not immediately known.

The contents of the Castle, including Seton's classic painting The Sleeping Wolf were in storage during the restoration and were not damaged.

I will post news reports and updates as they become available.

Monday, October 31, 2005

She Taught Seton to Read & Write ...

One of our readers sent in the following interesting tidbit:

My great, great, grandmother, Agnes O'Leary O'Brien, taught Ernest Thompson
Seton to read and write while he was living in Lindsay, Ontario. In the
early part of the 20th century (I can check the date) he gave her an copy of
"Two Little Savages" inscribed to her who…"taught me to read and write in a
little log cabin in Lindsay, Ont." My great, great, grandmother was the daughter
of a school master and was herself only 16 or 17 when she taught Seton.
She later married and moved to Rochester, NY.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

A Photo of a Mural in the Hogan at Seton Castle. This photograph was taken in 1992. Copyright Ron Edmonds, all rights reserved. Posted by Hello

Monday, May 02, 2005

Aldo Leopold

I received the following inquiry recently and wnated to pass it along in case anyone knows of such a link.

I am curious to know if Ernest T. Seton knew Aldo Leopold. Did they ever meet? Both of these men spent some part of their lives in New Mexico, a state I recently visited. While there, I toured the Philmont Museum and Seton Memorial Library. The people there did not know of any connection between these two men.

For those who may not be familiar with Leopold, he is considered by many to be the father of wildlife management. His classic work is Sand County Almanac, which is defintiely worth reading.

He lived in New Mexico in the earrly part of the 20th Century, marrying a woman from Santa Fe. He relocated to Wisconsin in the early 1920s, probably before Ernest Thompson permanently relocated to the Santa Fe area,

Saturday, March 12, 2005


Editor's note: This paper was submitted by our good friend Barbara Ellen Witemeyer of Albuquerque after reading the post on "Hau, Kola". Thanks again, Barbara.

Thanks to Hollywood films, everyone knows that one Indian greets another by holding up his right hand, palm forward, and asking “How?” To which, according to a popular joke from my childhood, the answer was: “scrambled.” But “How” is not a question.
In fact, in the Lakota language, the greeting is “Hau” or “Hau Kola” which translates as “Hello friend.” In a John Ford movie, regardless of tribal affiliation, the greeting is usually “Yatahay,” a distortion of the Navajo “Ya’ah’tee,” roughly, “It is good.”
However much they may aspire to accuracy and authenticity when making films with Indians in them, directors (and their producers, in particular) are making films for profit. This obliges them to use the most economical resources at their command, and to cater to the expectations of their paying customers. After getting Frank Nugent, the scriptwriter for Fort Apache (1948), to do intensive research, director John Ford then allegedly told him to “forget everything you’ve just read, and we’ll start writing a movie” (Nolley, 76). Often filming in Monument Valley, Ford used local Indians to play whatever tribe was specified in the storyline. Hence the Sioux warrior who greets John Wayne with the Navajo phrase “Yatahay.”

But that was in the 1940s, and within the last decade steps have been made towards giving the Indian actors their own voices, and not just what Ted Jojola calls “the stereotypical ‘hows,’ ‘ughs,’ and ‘kemosabes’ of tinsel moviedom” (Jojola, 12). European films with multi-language characters have for some time used different languages, with sub-titles where appropriate. With films like The Last of the Mohicans (1992) and Dances With Wolves (1990) there is a lot of “real” Indian language spoken, although it is not yet entirely accurate. In The Last of the Mohicans, for instance, a Navajo friend revealed that there was some Navajo spoken, although the tribes portrayed were the Huron and Delaware from the far Northeastern states. Most of the Indian dialog was in Delaware (rather than Mohican), and sub-titles were used. Interestingly enough, when Duncan was bargaining with the Delaware chief, the language used by both was French, and since this was supposedly being translated from Nathaniel’s English, no subtitles were used. The story required the duplicity of mistranslation in this case so that Duncan be allowed to sacrifice himself to gain freedom for the others.
This evolution towards dual-language dialog in films with multi-cultural story lines has not happened overnight. The history of moving pictures spans more than one hundred years, and Indians have featured in them from the early, silent days. Many changes in these characters’ spoken dialog have taken place over time. Of course, the Indian did not get even an English voice until the advent of sound in 1926.
Until that time, silent film title-card panels were for the most part descriptive rather than detailing actual quoted speech. And most titles were written, not surprisingly, in standard English. To give an Indian flavor however, the viewer/reader was occasionally introduced to “um-speak.” You-um know-um what that-um means! Another favorite was the expression “heap,” for example, “heap big.” This made-up language was only one of the techniques used to convince the audience that the actors were “real” Indians, although, in fact, those with speaking parts seldom were.
In the early films, all major “Indian” characters were played by non-Indians. Non-Indians wrote the dialog, however, to be spoken by actors whose first language was, more often than not, English. Many of the film Indians were played by actors of Italian or Mexican descent, such as Ricardo Montalban and Gilbert Roland, and later, Sal Mineo. They all spoke in English and were cast because of their darker eyes and skin color, which naturally meant they looked authentically “Indian.”
Non-Indian leading men, such as Richard Dix (in Redskin (1929), and as Nophaie in The Vanishing American (1925)) and Jeff Chandler (as the Apache chief, Cochise in Broken Arrow (1950)) had to be heavily made-up to even approximate their Indian character. Once talking pictures arrived, in order to portray an intelligent Indian, to meet his white counterpart on equal ground, it was necessary for him to speak good English. Richard Dix—a silent actor— didn’t even speak in his non-Indian roles.
The Vanishing American was made in 1925, the year before sound and a couple of years before speech was added to movies. Therefore, only the occasional title card butted into the visual action. Actors relied heavily upon body language and facial grimaces, especially those expressive eyes, to convey their feelings. So when a young Navajo boy sees his horse taken by whites, he cannot protest. The moviegoer reads: “Even in his short life, Nasja had learned that the white man must have his own way—that the Indian can only watch and endure, and dumbly wonder” (Riley, 61). Even in a silent film the Indian was denied his voice.
In 1930 a “semi-documentary” about the Ojibways called The Silent Enemy came out. It was a silent film, “released without sound”. However, the leading actor, Chauncy Yellow Robe, was given some say when he “appeared in the talkie short which preceded the feature….[describing] how The Silent Enemy was made” (Friar, 177).
Once sound became a regular technical feature of films, Westerns suffered. No longer could horsemen of any color dash across vast open spaces shouting (in captions) “They went that’a’way” or “Me shoot ‘um soldier.” The sound equipment was too cumbersome and bulky, and studio pictures were the norm.
With sound, however, the movie-going public could actually hear the “DUM-dum-dum-dum” drumming, the “warhoops and the ‘Ugh, me want ‘um firewater. Ugh, me take ‘um scalp’” dialog of silent card panels (Friar, 178). Ugh-speech was to become the standard Indian film language, even for non-Indian actors. In the 1947 film Black Gold, supposedly based on a true story, “Anthony Quinn ‘ugs’ his way through as the Indian hero” (Friar, 178).
Jay Silverheels, one of the first featured actors who could truthfully claim to be a real Indian, was a Canadian award-winning athlete before breaking into films in 1938. At first in the traditional Indian role as an extra, falling off horses in Westerns, he advanced to feature films as the main Indian actor, and eventually, to world-wide recognition as the Lone Ranger’s sidekick, Tonto. Faithful, resourceful, and intelligent, Tonto was still forced to communicate with the Lone Ranger in Ugh-speech. In fact, it sounded even more ridiculous in view of the actual words spoken that, in contrast, were extremely cogent and intelligent. I suppose one could say that it is to the Lone Ranger’s credit that he did not undertake to teach his loyal companion to speak “correctly,” and in fact did not seem to find any fault with the stereotypical “Indian” speech of his co-hero. Poor Tonto never got a chance to speak his own tribal language, since the pair rarely met other Indians. We never learned to which tribe he belonged either.
In the situations where Hollywood Indians appear in a tribal group situation, it is often the case that the actors come from different tribes. At the very least, the language spoken by the film Indians may not be their mother tongue. There are worse case scenarios, too. In The Only Good Indian, Friar quotes a 1939 New York Times article by Cullison Cady relating how a director decided
[the] sound track of Indian dialogue on a certain strip of film…didn’t sound “Indian enough.” To solve the problem, he had the Indians speak English in a retake, and then ran the sound track backward. The verdict on the resultant gibberish was thoroughly acceptable.
(Friar, 179)
Lots of Indians who wanted film work came to Hollywood from Canada as well as from many different tribes across the United States. One only has to look at the actors who are familiar names today to get some idea of the variety of language groups represented: Gary Farmer, Six Nations (Canada); Wes Studi, Cherokee; Russell Means, Ogalala Sioux; Graham Greene, Oneida; Rodney S. Grant, Omaha; Chief Dan George, Canadian Squamish; Floyd Red Crow Westerman, Dakota; Tantoo Cardinal, Cree/Metis; Irene Bedard, Cree-Metis/Inupiat; to name but a few.
And, career actors that they are, they turn up in all kinds of guises. For instance, Wes Studi and Rodney S. Grant played Apaches in Geronimo: An American Legend (1994); Studi was a Huron in The Last of the Mohicans (1992) and Grant, a Sioux in Dances With Wolves; in Maverick (1994), Graham Greene plays an Indian, hired by a rich Russian to play a savage Indian, complete with warbonnet and warhoops, but decidedly aculturated when “off duty,” and he is a Sioux in Thunderheart (1992); Chief Dan George was a Cheyenne in Little Big Man (1970); and in Tony Hillerman’s Dark Wind (1991), Gary Farmer becomes a Hopi. For the most part, in these roles they seldom had to speak anything but English.
The 1990 film Dances With Wolves includes Graham Greene, Rodney S. Grant, Floyd Red Crow Westerman, and Tantoo Cardinal in the Lakota Sioux tribe; Graham Greene was even nominated for an Academy Award, though probably not for speaking Lakota.
The dialog coach for Kevin Costner’s film was a Lakota actress, Dorris Leader Charge. She had to teach the Indian actors from other tribes to speak Lakota. The “authentic” conversations in the Indian camp were then given English subtitles. Since there are gender differences in the Lakota language, one wonders how the film’s “authentic” dialog learned from a woman sounded to male Lakota-speakers.
Lou Diamond Phillips is a case in point. Of Filipino and Hawaiian origins, he was cast as the lead, a Navajo policeman, in the film Dark Wind shot on Navajo and Hopi land. Because it was felt that an Indian actor should have been chosen, there was much criticism of his being given the part. It is said he claimed some Cherokee blood, but this was not widely accepted. In any case, he was far from being a Navajo and would have had to learn whatever phrases in that difficult language his character had to speak in the film. His co-star Gary Farmer (himself not Navajo) allowed that “Lou did a commendable job with the language.” For Farmer, “the most poignant thing about The Dark Wind is that it will be the first time American audiences will hear Navajo and Hopi spoken in a movie theater.” Not, perhaps, entirely true, but most of the earlier attempts were minimal at best, and often led to misunderstandings or even incomprehension. This was the case in many movie romances between different races.
Throughout the history of movies with white-Indian contact, there have been romantic interludes. Most are with white men marrying (in one form or another) the beautiful Indian maiden. This almost always led to her demise, since the general public was not prepared to accept miscegenation; in any case, the poor child of nature would have perished in city surroundings so what use to take her back East. But this mix-matching led to some swapping of languages as the couple learned about each other. In Across the Wide Missouri (1951) trapper and mountain man, Clark Gable, marries an “Indian” girl and lives with her people. He plays a Jews harp and sings “Skip to My Lou.” His young wife, played by Mexican actress Maria Elena Marques, attempts to win his approval by imitating him, but her efforts to sing “Can’t get a red bird/a blue bird will do” result in a silly babble. She obviously has no idea of the actual words or their meaning, but being Indian she is allowed to be a bit childish and it just makes her rather endearing. The fact that she has adapted to life without comprehensible language seems rather to emphasize her intelligence.
This same quality of acceptance in a silent, mixed marriage is portrayed in John Ford’s 1956 film The Searchers. The unfortunate Look (played by Beulah Archuletta) becomes wife to young Martin (Jeffrey Hunter), a mixed-blood, through a misunderstanding due to his ignorance of her Plains Indian language. John Wayne, as Ethan Edwards, understands and speaks the language, but he does nothing to help out the situation. He only translates the information that her name is “Wild Goose Flying in the Night Sky” and not “Look” which Marty is always saying. She thinks that is what he wants to call her, and is willing to answer to it. Because of the lack of common language, Look is considered dumb, in all its senses, and treated as a joke. The inference regarding Ethan Edwards, however, is that he is clever because he speaks the Indian language. As usual, the whiteman is portrayed as more intelligent than the Indian.
An evenly matched, but mixed couple swapping mother-tongues forms a significant portion of Dances With Wolves. Language coach, Dorris Leader Charge also taught Costner and his (white) leading lady, Mary McDonnell, the Lakota language. In the film, though, the woman, Stands-with-a-Fist, who was taken by the Lakota as a child and therefore still understands and speaks a little English, has the task of teaching John Dunbar. Reluctantly and with bowed head, Stands-with-a-Fist obeys her adoptive father, and the learning of language from each other also becomes a language of love. As they become more adept at understanding the spoken words, their unspoken words become equally clear. No subtitles are used here.
Subtitles play no part in the bulk of TV commercials, but even here there is occasionally a play on language. Take for example the appearance of renowned Jemez Pueblo artist, Jose Rey Toledo, in a pizza commercial some years back. Jose Rey had appeared in several movies including Flap (1970) starring Anthony Quinn as the drunken Indian, Flapping Eagle, and a vampire movie, Nightwing (1979). According to Joe Sando, the Pizza Hut commercial was
[o]riginally intended to be shown only in California, [but] it was so funny and appealing that it was aired in many other regions as well [including Albuquerque]. The scene showed him dressed in his pueblo costume eating a pizza, walking away, saying, “I am going back to my native country, Italy.”
Jose Rey was grinning broadly as he made his exit, no doubt pleased at getting his own back on the many Italian actors that were given roles as Indians in the past.
With the advent of Diana Reyna’s Surviving Columbus, an all-Pueblo documentary, shown first in 1992 as a half-hour PBS pilot for the Columbian Quinticentennial, and then released as a full length television feature film to great acclaim, the Indian voice was at last heard across the land. Reyna, a Taos artist and alumna of the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, directed this documentary which told the other side of the conquest story. It used both English and the native Pueblo languages. Joe Sando, Jemez Pueblo historian, spoke English, as did the late Alfonso Ortiz of San Juan and Ed Ladd from Zuni. But the venerable, 100 year old, Zuni Religious Leader who talked about the first contact with Estefanico spoke in his native Zuni language. We listened to the music of the words, not the meaning. Acoma journalist and broadcaster, Conroy Chino, featured prominently in Surviving Columbus as the narrator; he also shared domestic scenes with his family at dinner. It was interesting to hear the variations of language use between members of the family: the mother spoke in Acoma with English words here and there; the grandmother spoke exclusively in Acoma; Conroy himself spoke a somewhat hesitant Acoma. I asked him about this and he explained that his mother was very conscious of the non-Acoma speaking camera crew, and therefore added some English words so as not to exclude them. His own tentative speech, Conroy told me, was the result of having been away in California for some years where he spoke English all the time, and had gotten out of the habit of thinking in Acoma.
And now, we are having an upsurge of movies where English is spoken all the time, but by Indians. However the difference is this. These are their own movies, and they are telling it like it is. In Harold of Orange (1984), Charlie Hill (Oneida) uses Harold’s extensive command of the English language to run rings around and get the better of the “Anglos”; he uses not only the right words, but intersperses them with tongue-tripping mysticism that the gullible Anglos expect from “real” Indians. The road buddy movies, Powwow Highway (1988) and Smoke Signals (1998) were made a decade apart. The former paired a genial, reservation Indian, Philbert Bono (played by Gary Farmer in an early starring role), and a savvy Vietnam vet activist, Buddy Big Toe (A. Martinez). They were “real” Indians, in a real time, Indian-off-the-Rez movie, but the film was written and directed by non-Indians. While Smoke Signals was a similar road adventure shared by two Rez Indians, and the characters were similarly mismatched—the traditionalist, dreamer and the angry, alienated one—the difference here is that the writer (Sherman Alexie, Spokane/Coer d’Alaine) and director (Chris Eyre) are both Indians. They put together and produced an Indian movie, about Indians, for Indians, that is almost entirely in English, but at the same time shows Indians as they are, today. Real movie Indians, not “Hollywierds.”
A relic of the Lone Ranger days, the debate about just what “Tonto” and “Kemosabe” mean may not be over, but ugh-speech has gone with the wind, and the hero and his sidekick—now both Indians—can speak their minds, in their own words, in whatever language they choose to use. With luck this will mean better understanding by today’s moviegoers, whatever the language they use. So, if an Indian asks you if you like eggs for breakfast, and the next time you meet he says “How” – don’t answer “scrambled,” but say, “Hello friend.”

Monday, March 07, 2005

Looking for a Grey Owl Connection

A friend of mine recently wrote and asked me whether I knew of a connection between the Canadian author Grey Owl and Ernest Thompson Seton.

I had been vaguely aware of Grey Owl and new that he was a Canadian Indian writer of the early 1900s. Among his books are The Men of the Last Frontier (1931), Tales of an Empty Cabin (1936) and The Tree (1937). Given the location and their interests, it indeed seems logical that there night be a connection.

I have reviewed my sources and I have yet to find a connection. But I have found a new interest.

Grey Owl lived and worked in northern Ontario from 1906 on as a trapper, guide, forest ranger, conservationist and writer. He claimed to be the child of a Ojibway and a white woman and lived among the Native Americans.

After his death. It was discovered that grey Owl was really Archie Belaney who had immigrated from England in 1906. Somewhere on his journey, he erased his past and created a new one. That he pulled it off so well is a literary mystery.

Grey Owl was the subject of a 1999 film, Grey Owl, starring Pierce Brosnan.

If anyone knows of a connection between Seton and Grey Owl, please share the information.

World Woodcraft Gathering - Opening Ceremony

Ceremony for Formal Opening session – Sunday 7th August

All Folk present at the Gathering proceed to the Ceremonial Circle, which is surrounded by the regalia and symbols of all Groups and Woodcrafters present
Once gathered, the WoodCraft League of the Czech Republic (WLC) Keeper of the Fire performs their traditional fire-lighting ceremony – with the Order of WoodCraft Chivalry (OWC) Keeper of the Fire standing, to the eastern side of the unlit fire. The glowing embers are carried to the OWC Keeper of the Fire, with the words

‘behold; this flame signifies the continuation of our Gatherings; at Little Walden, Greenwood and Chudenice

The OWC Keeper of the Fire takes the embers and lights the Fire, with the words

‘we have experienced kindness, helpfulness, courage, strength & joyfulness, before. I charge this Gathering to rise, with the same Spirit, to the challenges of this occasion'

After a few moments silence Ashes from previous Fires are added to the Fire, commencing with

Ashes carried by a Representative (?from Forest School Camps (FSC)) from the North, with the words

‘behold, I come with Greetings from your brethren of the North – bringing the Gift of Life renewed, replenished, stored for future use’

All sing

Now welcome Life, safe kept in Winter’s hold
Though all above the field is bare & cold
Deep lies the seed within the silent earth
Shall spring at last to gladness of re-birth

After a few moments silence, Ashes carried by a Representative from the East (?from WLC), with the words

‘behold, I come with Greetings from your brethren of the East – bringing the Gift of Life new-born, up-rushing, bursting forth…

All sing

Now welcome Life, behold the living green
Newborn in vigour, bursting forth is seen
Now joy returns, in tender hope appears
The certain promise of the fruitful years

After a few moments silence, Ashes carried by a Representative from the South (?from OWC), with the words

‘behold, I come with Greetings from your brethren of the South – bringing the Gift of energy & life; splendid, vital, potent, glorious and full’

All sing

Now welcome Life, upon the noon-tide hour
In splendid beauty opens full the flower
And lifts its head towards the glorious sun
From whose rich store all Life is won

After a few moments silence, Ashes carried by a Representative from the West (?from North America), with the words

‘behold, I come with Greetings from your brethren of the West – bringing the Gift of Life, furfilled, mature & rich in experience and wealth of wisdom, love and peace’

All sing

Now welcome Life, in perfect fullness shown
The seed of Life unto its fullness grown
Behold the promise is at last furfilled
Of Life full-grown, which future Life shall yield

The OWC Keeper of the Fire places the Ashes on the Fire, with the words

‘with these logs, plucked from the Fires of Yesteryear, we signify that our Fire is the same, ‘tho’ ever new’

followed by individual Ashes, from any member of the Gathering present, with the words
‘to the Greater Life…’

All assembled hold hands around the Circle, as the Fire burns and gains momentum
The OWC Chieftain allows the flames to rise and then gives the sign & watchword

‘Blue Sky!!!’

to which all Folk respond

‘Blue Sky!!!’

The OWC Chieftain welcomes all Folk present, with the words

‘Greetings to our friends from the East and from the West and those from other Woodcraft movements in this country
Welcome to this, the 4th International Woodcraft Gathering; again sealed with the symbolism of the Fire-Lighting and the placing of logs from yester-year
May we, in all that we do this week, give of ourselves vividly, richly & whole-heartedly – keeping that Spirit of our Czech friends from the last Gathering; as the rain fell and we learned again about working with Mother Nature’

The Gathering Recorder steps forward, with the words

‘now is the time for all Groups and Members present to identify themselves’

Groups present, followed by Lone Members step forward to be acknowledged, with the OWC Chieftian leading the Greeting

‘Welcome & Blue Sky!!!’

for each

The Gathering Recorder continues by introducing the Officials present (– please see Appendix One)

The OWC Chieftain introduces the Gathering Song, developed in 2002, with the words

‘In Chudenice we wrote a song, which we will sing now’

Chorus:- Blue Skies above us & green grass below
camping fires & singing & tipees aglow

Seton began it & we carry on
practising LifeCraft in rain or in sun

Chorus:- Blue Skies above us & green grass below
camping fires & singing & tipees aglow

What is your language? & where are you from?
Sharing our differences Keeps WoodCraft strong

Chorus:- Blue Skies above us & green grass below
camping fires & singing & tipees aglow

happy campers jumping, stars twinkling bright
sparks flying, beer-sharing, talking all night

Chorus:- Blue Skies above us & green grass below
camping fires & singing & tipees aglow

The Gathering Convenor steps forward, with the words
‘now is the time for each of us to Declare our Interests and our Past – to learn, from each other, of our rich inheritance and hopes for the future of Woodcraft’

Each Group is invited to provide a short (5 minute) presentation; to include final ideas for the Discussion sessions

Following this there will be a Ceremonial Feast (in the Eating Circle) and an Evening of Glee (at the Camp Fire), whilst the Keepers of the Fire make arrangements for the Fire to burn throughout the Gathering (this may involve WoodCrafters watching the Fire overnight, at times)

Daily Program for World Woodcraft Gathering

Daily Structure:-

Arise Song 8am
Breakfast from 8:30am
Rally, for all at Gathering 10am followed by coffee
Workshop 1 (craft activity) 11am to 11:45am
Workshop 2 (craft activity) 12 noon to 12:45pm
Lunch 1pm
Workshop 3 (dance/music/theatre) 2:15 to 3pm
Workshop 4 (games) 3:15 to 4pm
Discussion Group 4:30pm with ‘afternoon tea’
Dinner 5:30pm
Evening Campfires from 7pm with cocoa…
Night Song 10:30pm

the intention is to run a series of workshops each day; enabling woodcrafters to
1. either ‘browse’ through a variety of activities; such as ‘tye-dying’, tee-shirt printing, pottery, copper wire jewellery, wood-turning, metal forging etc, or concerntrate on one activity over several days, in the morning – incliuding the totem pole we have agreed to make for the Centre…
2. practice some skills (old & new), in the afternoon…
please see draft programme – Appendix Two – for some ideas about how this may work…

detailed Programme:-

Informal Gathering from Saturday 31st July to Saturday 6th August; during which the Catering, Discussion & Workshop venues will be constructed – by those Woodcrafters present, and there will be an opportunity for sight-seeing as well as the forging & re-kindling of friendships

Sunday 7th August –
Formal Opening from 2pm
with Cermonial Feast
& evening of Glee

Monday 8th & Tuesday 9th August –
Daily Programme

Wednesday 10th August –
opportunity for hikes around the area

Thursday 11th & Friday 12th August –
Daily Programme

Saturday 13th –
Formal Closing, from 11am
commencing with full Gathering Council; to receive Reports & agree a Declaration

1. Catering will be co-ordinated by Janet Forbes, with Clans established, from a mixture of the Groups attending (see Appendix Four); to be published at the commencement of the Gathering.
2. There will be a charge of c.£10 per adult per day, c.£5 for under 18’s, plus a ‘central management charge’ of £10 for each waywarden & wayfarer
3. In order to ensure the Centre meet their costs they reserve the right to hire-out the field, on up-to 4 occassions, during our stay – we may wish to invite people using the facilities to share our Activiities
4. The Order of Woodcraft Chivalry, as co-hosts of this event, take the issues of Mis-Use of (illegal (street)) Drugs and over-consumption of alcohol seriously. There is no place at this gathering for the Mis-Use of Drugs and the use of alcohol should be considered with a view to the role-model it presents to others

The Gordon Brown Centre is owned by the London Borough of Brent & provides ‘outdoor educational experiences’ for schoolchildren. In addition to the extensive grounds – which includes tipees with accommodation sufficient for c.30 people and ample space for other camping – there is some, single-gender sleeping accomodation – in ‘bunkhouses’, together with a fully-fitte kitchen, showers & toilets

4th International Woodcraft Gathering Notice

We've received and been asked to pass along the following announcement of the 4th International Woodcraft Gathering. I will be posting full details of the event as they become available. For more information, contact Mick Tutt of the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry at

4th international Woodcraft Gathering Sunday 31st July 2005
Saturday 13th August 2005

@ the Gordon Brown Outdoor Environmental Educational Centre, Ridge Lane, ROTHERWICK, near Basingstoke Hampshire RG27 9AT (UK)

this will be the 4th occasion, since 1996, when Woodcrafters – worldwide – have had the opportunity to come together in Fellowship…and share skills, experience & memories
previous Gatherings have taken place at Little Walden (’96), GreenWood (’99) and Chudenice (’02) – thus ‘…our Fire is the same, ‘tho’ ever new’

…blue skies above us & green grass below
camping fires & singing & tipees aglow…

Officials for the 4th International Woodcraft Gathering

Gathering Convener – pelican (mick tutt), Order of Woodcraft Chivalry & Bluesky!!!WorldWoodcraft

Gathering Chieftain – Squire (Martin Westlake), Order of Woodcraft Chivalry

Czech ‘Lead’ – Logan (Martin Kupka), Woodcraft League of the Czech Republic & Bluesky!!!WorldWoodcraft

Forest School Camp ‘Lead’ – Eleanor Broadhurst

Gathering Keepers of the Fire – Charlotte Jones, Order of Woodcraft Chivalry

Gathering Caterer – Janet Forbes, Order of Woodcraft Chivalry

Gathering Craftsman – Clive Bowen, Order of Woodcraft Chivalry
Gathering Recorder/Keeper of the Purse – to be appointed

Saturday, February 12, 2005

How, Kola!

Not too long, we received an email inquiry from a museum curator preparing an exhibit on the impact of Seton on summer camping programs. We receive many such requests and gladly respond whenever possible. This particular request also asked a question - just what does "How Kola" mean?

I answered the question in the methodical style I usually do. I told the correspondent that the correct spelling is "Hau, Kola" and that it means "Hello, Friend" in Lakota. I also told her that it was the origin of the stereotypical Indian greeting, How!

But I thought later that maybe I had answered that question rather superficially. So, upon reflection, I decided to look back at a copy of The Birch Bark Roll to see what Seton had actually said about "Hau, Kola." I got a couple of surprises and something to think about. I found out that Seton did, indeed, spell it "How Kola." Seton translated it as "Hail, Brother." More interestingly, I noted that "How, Kola" is the war cry of the Woodcraft Indians.

In these days of international tensions, how different a world it would be if we made our war cry, How, Kola, Hail Brother.

Friday, February 11, 2005


While you may be familiar with Ernest Thompson Seton’s Castle home, built around 1930 near Santa Fe, New Mexico, in southwest United States, did you know there is another castle in northeast Scotland, where Ernest Evan Thompson’s Seton forbears lived? This is Fyvie Castle, a fine example of sixteenth century Scottish baronial castles, located northwest of Aberdeen.
The original Fyvie dated as far back as 1211, changing hands several times before Alexander Seton purchased it in 1596. Seton, who later became Chancellor of Scotland, had the castle considerably enlarged. He also added the upper parts that, according to the illustrated guide book “form the chief architectural glory of Fyvie.” Not content with five beautiful towers, Seton had the south front embellished with “bartizens, crow-stepped gables, skewputs, sculpted dormers and finials in the form of musicians and huntsmen.” He is also credited with building the great “wheel-stair,” said to be Scotland’s finest example of this massive curving staircase. The steps are ten feet across, and on the supporting arches the red crescent which formed part of the Seton crest is displayed. A stained glass window halfway up also depicts the Seton crest with the words “Alexander Seton” framing it.
Despite Alexander being Mary, Queen of Scots’ godson and, after being made Lord Fyvie in 1596, becoming the guardian of the future King Charles I, the Setons did not remain lairds of Fyvie Castle for long. A century or so after the remodeling, one of Alexander Seton’s sons, the 4th Earl of Dunfermline took up the losing Jacobite cause; he was outlawed and died in exile. The estate then reverted to the Crown and subsequently passed to other titled families: first the Gordons, then the Leiths. Fyvie Castle was sold by Sir Andrew Forbes-Leith in 1984 to the National Trust for Scotland. It is well worth a visit.

Editor's Note:
Thanks to Barbara Ellen Witemeyer of Albuquerque, New Mexico for submitting this article.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Dispatch from Santa Fe

I have just returned from the formal “Groundbreaking” for the restoration of Seton Castle in Seton Village in Santa Fe. The Castle, Seton’s final home, was acquired by a nonprofit organization called the Academy for the Love of Learning about a year and a half ago. They have spent the time since the acquisition cataloguing the contents of the Castle and preparing for the restoration by researching the Castle’s past, raising the necessary funds for the restoration and navigating the complex regulatory path of preserving and restoring a National Historic Landmark while complying with current construction code requirements. The Academy plans to use Seton Castle as a learning center through which they will offer educational programs, conferences and seminars.

It was an unusual day in Santa Fe, colder than predicted with many more clouds in the sky than you usually think of in Santa Fe, perhaps a subtle hint of the much greater precipitation – rain and snow that Santa Fe has received in the past months. It is the first time that I can recall that a U.S. Forest Service sign indicated that fire danger was low in the area.

Around 100 people gathered for the event, including the Staff and friends of The Academy, members of the Seton family, residents of Seton Village and Santa Fe, die-hard Seton fans, a few politicians, and the architects and the construction company that are handling the restoration project.

Among the highlights of the program:

Aaron Stern, president of the Academy, gave a short history of the project and the Academy’s plans. He also read a letter that Dee Seton Barber had written for the occasion and a passage by the Chief from an early edition of The Birch Bark Roll.

Julie Seton, Seton’s granddaughter read a letter that she had written for the occasion, expressing some memories, reflections and her support for the project.

Christa Franklin, Seton’s great-granddaughter and granddaughter of Anya Seton added some reflections from her side of the family.

Eiji Fujiwara, a Japanese professor who has translated much of Seton’s work into Japanese shared his thoughts on the occasion.

A wonderful ceremony of dedication was conducted by Sanchi Reta Lawler, a teacher of meditation in the Zen Buddhist tradition who has worked for many years with mystics, shamans and spiritual teachers in Peru, India and Nepal.

A symbolic groundbreaking by Seton’s great great-granddaughter and a young resident of Seton Village.

With the conclusion of the ceremony, the clouds broke and rays of bright sunshine flooded the courtyard of Seton Castle where the ceremony took place.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Welcome to Blue Skies!

Hao Kola,

This blog is designed to provide a community for all people interested in the life, works and philosophy of Ernest Thompson Seton and Woodcraft to share thoughts, writings, poetry, questions and information.

The blog is sponsored by the Ernest Thompson Seton Institute and is open to all.

Blue Skies!